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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

600 Killed in Liberian Rebel Offensive

MONROVIA, Liberia -- Liberia said Tuesday that more than 600 civilians had been killed in a rebel onslaught as fighting raged for a fifth day on the outskirts of the capital.

The blast of mortar bombs rang out across Monrovia, where the UN refugee agency described the situation as "horrific" and aid workers appealed for foreign troops to end the violence.

West African ministers and security officials met in Senegal to discuss sending peacekeepers to the battered country and pressure mounted on the United States to intervene.

Liberian Defense Minister Daniel Chea said the soaring death toll in Monrovia had thrown into doubt pledges by President Charles Taylor to quit once peacekeeping troops arrived.

Aid workers calculated that over 100 civilians had been killed by mortar bombs since Friday, but Chea put overall civilian casualties at six times that figure.

Angry Monrovians have cursed the United States for failing to send soldiers to help end the bloodshed in the country, which was founded by freed American slaves.

The U.S. administration has put the burden on the Economic Community of West African States to lead any mission to end 14 years of almost nonstop war.

But there has been little indication that the regional bloc will any time soon deploy a promised 1,500 troops, meant as the vanguard of a larger force.

Fighting in the city resumed Tuesday after a quiet night. The heaviest gunfire rang out from areas near bridges that lead to the center -- where the battle has seesawed since Friday -- and on a road encircling the coastal city, which is built on a chain of islands.

Drenching rain amplified the misery for tens of thousands of Monrovians packed into the diplomatic quarter, where many had no shelter or huddled under scraps of plastic sheeting.

Residents demonstrated outside the U.S. Embassy on Monday, laying 18 bodies outside the compound and denouncing Washington for not having sent soldiers yet. U.S. President George W. Bush has said he would only consider sending troops to help if Taylor, wanted by a UN-backed war crimes court in Sierra Leone, left the country.