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Liberian Clashes Erupt Between Rebels, Civilians - 2004-03-21


Fighting between a rebel group and civilians caused riots to spread through Liberia's port city of Buchanan over the weekend resulting in the death of at least one civilian.

The commander of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, General Daniel Opande, said a civilian died Sunday morning after being severely wounded in clashes. Others are still being treated at a hospital in Buchanan.

According to a U.N. spokesperson in Liberia, Margaret Novicki, the riots were triggered when a rebel from the Movement for Democracy in Liberia, MODEL attempted to steal food from a civilian and the civilian resisted. Members of MODEL retaliated against the civilian and beat him.

"The original civilian was attacked and badly beaten and our troops on the ground there rescued the civilian and took him to the hospital but a commotion started from there [between] various MODEL fighters and the civilian population, which unfortunately degenerated into violence within the city. A few people were injured and shops were looted," she said.

Ms. Novicki says U.N. troops restored calm to the area and a helicopter gunship was deployed from Monrovia to control the outbreak.

There are nearly 12,000 peacekeepers in Liberia to assist with disarmament of former combatants of the brutal 14-year civil war. The war ended when former president Charles Taylor fled into exile last August.

A move towards disarmament began last December but ended quickly when former fighters protested the amount of cash incentive given for handing over their weapons.

Ms. Novicki said the U.N. is hopeful that the disarmament process will begin again soon. "The disarmament process has not yet resumed. We are working on fulfilling all the conditions that have to be in place before disarmament resumes. We expect it to resume in the very near future," she said.

There are currently over 800 peacekeepers in the city of Buchanan.

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