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Liberia: UN envoy calls end to sporadic fighting

Liberia: UN humanitarian envoy calls for end to sporadic fighting in northeast

The United Nations Special Humanitarian Coordinator in Liberia today called on combatants inside the country's interior region to stop fighting, as sporadic clashes between government forces and rebel militia continue to threaten civilians and relief workers and impede aid distribution.

Ross Mountain's plea for calm came following reports of renewed outbursts of violence in Kakata - 50 kilometres northeast of the capital Monrovia - and looting in nearby Salala. Although the fighting was not prolonged, preliminary reports indicate that as many as 3,000 civilians fled the area.

The clash in Kakata, between Government militia and Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), seriously endangered the lives of war victims and those trying to help them, Mr. Mountain said.

"It is unacceptable that these internally displaced persons (IDPs), already displaced, should find themselves once more caught in the crossfire. Frequently, combatants intentionally spook IDPs with gunfire, sparking their mass-movement, with the intent of moving into their villages and homes and looting goods and property left behind," he added.

Mr. Mountain also urged all signatories - including the Government and LURD - to honour the 17 August accord on the distribution of humanitarian aid and assistance, following confirmation yesterday that armed combatants had stolen three vehicles belonging to the Lutheran World Service/Foundation (LWS/F), which manages a major IDP camp in Salala, and a fourth from Phebe Hospital.

Although the vehicles were later recovered, all the internal communications equipment had been removed. Phebe Hospital has been evacuated and the condition of its patients, two of which underwent major surgery last weekend, remains unknown.

"These acts are in direct contravention of the agreement. It is vital that humanitarian actors can undertake their work, unencumbered by these violent and [threatening] tactics," Mr. Mountain said. "Theft of equipment belonging to international organizations and [non-governmental organizations (NGOs)] must now end."

The instability comes as the humanitarian community had begun to make inroads into addressing some of the needs of Liberians who had fled recent fighting. Some 650 West African peacekeepers from Guinea-Bissau deployed and established a base in Kakata just hours after the clash.

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