Two Liberians who worked for a U.S.-based aid agency have been killed in fighting in Liberia, near the Ivory Coast border. A Norwegian aid worker is still missing.
The Liberian defense minister says the bodies of two Liberian aid workers have been found near Toe Town, which was the scene of heavy fighting late last week.
The two men and their Norwegian colleague were last seen at a checkpoint heading toward Toe Town. They were going to inspect their aid agency's operations in eastern Liberia when their car ran into an ambush late Friday. Their burnt out vehicle was found afterward.
All three men worked for the Washington-based Adventist Development and Relief Agency, known as ADRA. The agency has been aiding refugees from Ivory Coast, who crossed the border into Liberia to escape fighting.
The defense minister says he believes rebels kidnapped the missing Norwegian and took him across the border into Ivory Coast.
"There is still one person missing," said Delphine Marie, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. "And I want to here make a call to whoever detains this person, who is a Norwegian worker for ADRA, to release him immediately, and to make sure he is in good condition and he is safe, not to harm him and to make everything possible for his release."
The UNHCR says more than 10,000 people have fled the area around Toe Town because of the fighting there last week. Some 2,500 of them are refugees, mainly from Ivory Coast, who were staying in a transit center near the border town.
The Liberian government has blamed the violence on rebels from the group known as LURD, for Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy. But LURD has denied any involvement in the fighting around Toe, or in neighboring parts of Ivory Coast.
Ms. Marie of UNHCR says, regardless of who is responsible, the deaths of the aid workers is very saddening and very shocking. "There really needs to be an end to humanitarian workers being targeted by fighters, because we are there to help the civilian population," she said.
The aid agency, ADRA, said the killing and kidnapping of three of its most seasoned workers came as a great shock.
ADRA says it is working around the clock with the U.N. refugee agency and the International Committee of the Red Cross to find out what has happened to the Norwegian employee who remains missing.