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State of Emergency in Liberia - 2002-02-12

In liberia, the mass exodus continues from the area near the town of Klay –some 40-kilometers from Monrovia. That’s where government troops and rebels have been fighting since last Thursday. English to Africa reporter Winston Monboe Tuesday visited two centers near Monrovia where thousands of refugees have settled.

In separate interviews, the fleeing civilians said they had gone without food and medicine for the past five days following last Thursday's shooting incident at Klay in Bomi county. Hundreds of the internally displaced persons or IDP's are said to be stranded in Folley Town on the Klay/Monrovia Highway.

According to the IDP's, government security is preventing them from coming to Monrovia or other areas they may deem safe other than their present location. According to them, only those without personal effects are allowed to pass through government checkpoints.

State security says the measure is intended to ensure that dissidents do not mix with fleeing civilians to infiltrate the capital.

Siafa Tweh is one of those reportedly stranded at the Folley Town on the highway. Mr. Tweh tells the VOA, he feels unsafe to return to his village and wants the government create the neccessary corridor for he and others to go.

At a center for displaced persons located at a former VOA radio transmittor site west of Monrovia, thousands of new arrivals queued for registration.

The French Charity, Doctors Without Borders says it's assessing the water and sanitation needs of the refugees as well as the general medical situation at the center. Another international charity, Save the Children Fund UK is working desparately to locate and reunite missing family members. Thousands of children have gone missing since the reported fighting ensued at Klay last Thursday.

In another development, police in Monrovia Tuesday afternoon shut down the offices of the independent Analyst newspaper and later arrested the Managing Editor and two other reporters working for the paper.

According to Police Director Paul Mulbah the actions are in connection with stories published in the paper's Tuesday edition critiquing the State of Emergency imposed recently by President Charles Taylor. Eyewitnesses say police manhandled the journalists as they arrested them at the offices of the Liberian Press Union.

Journalists here fear this could be the beginning of the clamp down on the independent press during the State of Emergency.