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Civilian Death Toll Mounts In Liberia - 2003-07-22


The civilian death toll is mounting in Liberia, and hospitals are overwhelmed with wounded, as a rebel assault on the capital continues. Aid workers put the death toll at about 100 from Monday's fierce fighting, but Liberia's defense minister says the figure is at least 600.

The rebels are continuing to try to force the departure of President Charles Taylor, but the defense minister says the rebels broke an agreement under which Mr. Taylor agreed to leave once a peacekeeping force is in place. Planning for the force is continuing at a meeting of West African defense ministers in Senegal.

Rebel forces have been attacking Monrovia for three days, and aid workers are warning that a humanitarian disaster looms in the overcrowded city that has no running water and little food. Tens-of-thousands of Liberians have fled into Monrovia in the last week to escape the fighting.

There have been displays of anger toward the U-S government and what Liberians see as its failure to intervene. Relatives stacked bodies of their dead outside the U-S Embassy gates to show their anger and frustration. The United States has called on West African nations to take the lead in restoring order in Liberia.

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