. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Liberian Mortar Fire Kills 6 Civilians

MONROVIA, Liberia -- Liberian rebels killed six civilians in mortar fire aimed at African peacekeepers, an aid agency said Wednesday in an appeal to combatants to allow aid to people trapped by renewed fighting in western Liberia.

Liberia's National Refugee Agency said the six were killed Tuesday when a mortar bomb hit their house in the Tubmanburg area during fighting between the ULIMO-J militia and the ECOMOG African force trying to end civil war in Liberia.

"We appeal to warring groups in the country to respect the rights of displaced persons and allow the free passage of humanitarian convoys and aid workers to cater for the suffering people," the government-owned agency said.

Battles erupted Tuesday in Tubmanburg, located 70 kilometers from Monrovia, after a day-long truce between guerrillas and the ECOMOG force trying to enforce a five-month-old peace accord.

Thousands of civilians have been fleeing toward Monrovia since fighting started a week ago after ECOMOG units intervened to end clashes between ULIMO-J and the rival ULIMO-K. There was no immediate comment on the death of the civilians from ULIMO-J warlord General Roosevelt Johnson or his aides.

Johnson, a minister in the Liberian cabinet formed under the peace accord, has accused ECOMOG of atrocities against his men and civilians. He has vowed Tubmanburg will never be taken by force by the peacekeepers.

ECOMOG, the 8,000-strong force dominated by Nigeria and including troops from Ghana and Guinea, said Wednesday it was pressing on with plans to demobilize 60,000 guerrillas.

"As far as ECOMOG headquarters is concerned, the deployment exercise is well on course and our schedule for disarmament of fighters still remains," the force's chief military spokesman Major Sola Akinola said. The 60,000 guerrillas, many of them child soldiers, are scheduled to start handing in their weapons Jan. 15.