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Liberia Softens Claims of Rebel Offensive

Liberia’s defense chief said Wednesday that reports of rebel attacks on one central town were rumors spread by his own troops to facilitate looting. West African peace troops headed into the interior to examine other reports of fighting. The moves come as heavy streams of refugees flowed toward Monrovia from towns just to the north, fleeing what the government has claimed were new rebel attacks despite a week-old peace deal. Persistent reports of clashes in the interior, while not seen as any serious threat to the peace deal, have provoked calls for West African peacekeepers to speed up deployment in the countryside. Fighters on both sides in Liberia’s conflict are generally rag-tag bands with little conventional discipline and patchy communication with top commanders, and some of the unrest uprooting civilians in the countryside is believed to be fighters out to secure last bits of spoils or territory. Authorities had determined reports of attacks on the town of Bong Mines, 50 miles north on the capital, were “just rumors” spread by soldiers to allow for looting, Defense Minister Daniel Chea told The Associated Press. Full Story

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