24 February 2014

Liberia: Fighting Erupts Near Liberia

Photo: Liberia Government
Ivorian President Alhassan Ouattara arrives in Liberia for a summit of the Mano River Union leaders (file photo).

Heavy fighting reportedly erupted in Glabo Town at the border inside neighboring Cote d'Ivoire near Liberia.

Multiple sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said heavy bomb blast and gunfire were heard inside Ivory Cost Sunday morning, 23 February 2014, not too far from the Nyaaken Town with Little Wleebo in Liberia.

The New Dawn was hinted Sunday that Liberia's joint security operatives, including the Police and Immigration and the United Nations Mission in Liberia or UNMIL have begun to patrol the Liberian side of the border since Sunday in Nyaaken Town.

This latest development comes less than a week after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees accused the Government of Liberia of forced extradition of 14 Ivorian refugees in a group of 23 wanted by Ivorian authorities for suspected mercenarism.

But it was not immediately established whether or not rebels are behind the fighting in Ivory Coast, closed to the Cavalla River. There has been no information available about any casualty as a result of the fighting in the neighboring country.

Notwithstanding, River Gee County Superintendent Daniel Johnson has confirmed to the NewDawn that firing has been ongoing on the Ivorian side of the border with Liberia since Sunday morning.

Superintendent Johnson said the joint security operation in the county faces logistical problems, thus making them to be ineffective in rapidly responding to situations.

According to the River Gee Superintendent, fresh Ivorian refugees have already begun crossing over to Liberia as a result of the fighting. He said both sides of the border are affected by the fighting, as the firing was closed to Liberia.

A source earlier informed the NewDawn Sunday afternoon that fears are being expressed that Ivorian refugees and others might have crossed over to Liberia due to the fighting.

The source said that the fighting was close to the same route on which the 14 Ivorian mercenary suspects were arrested early this month, while allegedly being transported to Ivory Coast to attack President Alassane Ouatara's government.

"UNMIL and joint securities in River Gee have gone to the border in Nyaaken," a source said, expressing fears held in the county that Ivorian refugees might cross over to Liberia.

Another source also revealed that news about the alleged fighting inside Ivory Coast emerged Sunday in Liberia when travelers and business people commuting between the two countries via River Gee County began contacting family members here upon hearing gun fires.

A daughter of one of Liberia's top security agency head patrolling the Liberian side of the border was said to have talked to her father over firing inside Ivory Coast, and allegedly sought advice for a safe escape route to Liberia.

A third source narrates: "It was this morning some of my kinsmen who went to the Ivory Coast to buy [good] heard bomb blast. They called me this morning and said there was fighting in Glabo."

Attempts by this paper to contact River Gee County Police Commander Amos Kollie and the County Commander for the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization Col. Bartu failed.

Meanwhile, the Liberian Government in its response to UN's claims of forced extraditing 14 Ivorian refugees, has requested the international community to assist in moving refugee camps away from the border to remove the case with which non-state actors and mercenaries continue to go back and forth planning, and sometimes implementing activities inimical to the peace, security and stability of the two countries.

A statement issued by Liberia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs says government is investigating reports of the arrest of some Ivorian nationals and the alleged return of Ivorian refugees to ascertain the facts.

The statement says Liberia continues to always act as a good regional neighbor within the boundaries of international law and best practices and that government is fully committed to the protection of its citizens and those seeking refuge in Liberia.

Reflecting on the national experience of the recent past, the Foreign Ministry sees respect for the rule of law as the hallmark for healing the nation, consolidating its young democracy, reforming its governance model and good neighborliness should form the cornerstone of [Liberia's] national policy.

"This is why in spite of the fragility of its situation as it emerges steadily and slowly from its own national crisis, Liberia opened its borders to thousands of Ivorian refugees following the recent conflagration in that country and Liberia continues to accommodate many of these refugees... ," the ministry said.

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