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Published: 03 Oct 2003
|UN peacekeepers patrol tense Liberian capital|
|United Nations troops patrolled the tense streets of the Liberian
capital Monrovia yesterday, one day after at least three people
were killed in clashes between rebels and government troops.
Sporadic shooting was heard overnight in Monrovia, just hours after the UN peacekeeping mission officially took over from regionally mandated peacekeepers who have been in Liberia since August 4, a week before president Charles Taylor stood down and went into exile.
Taylor's departure paved the way for a peace pact to be signed between two rebel groups - Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd) and the smaller, more recently formed Movement for Democracy in Liberia (Model) - and an interim government led by Taylor's deputy Moses Blah.
At least three people were killed and seven wounded Wednesday in clashes between rebels and government troops and militiamen in a district in eastern Monrovia.
Heavy fighting had broken out in the Red Light neighbourhood - thus named because it is near a large traffic junction - after a convoy escorting Lurd leader Sekou Damate Conneh came under attack there, witnesses said.
Conneh was on his way to meet with Blah when his convoy came under attack in the area, which is home to many supporters of Taylor.
Even before they had formally taken over peacekeeping duties, troops of the UN peacekeeping force Unmil fired in the air to disperse a group of militiamen as they tried to mutilate and burn the body of the rebel who was killed in the incident.
The meeting between Conneh and Blah was postponed indefinitely following the attack.
Yesterdaymorning, Monrovia was calm but tense.
Witnesses to the clash in Red Light said Lurd had regained a foothold in Monrovia's suburbs, and a correspondent in the capital said he had seen Lurd rebels at several road junctions in and near the capital.
UN soldiers were Thursday patrolling the area where the clash had taken place but were "doing nothing to prevent the rebels from stealing cellphones and cars from civilians," said a reporter.
Under the peace pact signed on August 18 between rebels and Blah's government, Lurd fighters must remain outside Monrovia, to which they had laid siege from June to August, beyond a security zone policed by peacekeepers.
The UN Security Council voted last month to deploy a peacekeeping force in Liberia, to help the west African country emerge from two successive civil wars that have left it the poorest nation in the world.
The UN force took over peacekeeping duties at an official ceremony Wednesday evening from west African soldiers.
Some 3 000 west African soldiers in Liberia have been incorporated into the new UN-mandated force.
The ceremony was attended by the UN secretary general's Special Representative in Liberia, Jacques Klein, and Liberia's interim leader Blah.
Klein said 14 countries including Bangladesh, Morocco and Namibia have consented to provide troops to Unmil.
He said the entire 15 000 troops that make up Unmil would be in the country in the next three months. – Sapa-AFP.