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Rebel-Loyalist Shootout Kills 3 in Liberia

October 02, 2003|From Reuters

MONROVIA, Liberia — A gunfight broke out between rebels and loyalist forces in Liberia's capital Wednesday, leaving three civilians dead just hours after the United Nations took command of West African peacekeepers.

Liberians blamed the peacekeepers for letting rebel leader Sekou Conneh bring armed bodyguards into the city on his first visit since negotiations meant to end 14 years of strife.

"The U.N. is responsible for this. They want us to die," chanted crowds around the three bodies as peacekeepers told armed rebels to clear the area.

The trouble began with people throwing stones at Conneh's motorcade as it drove through the Paynesville suburb to meet interim President Moses Blah. Shots were then fired -- it was not clear from which side -- triggering the 20-minute gun battle.

Conneh's car sped away, and rebels said he returned to the stronghold of Tubmanburg, north of Monrovia, without meeting Blah.

It was the worst violence in the capital since President Charles Taylor went into exile in August and the government and rebels signed the peace deal.

West African nations have sent 3,500 troops to Liberia, which has been given fresh hope by the peace agreement.

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