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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rebels Open 2nd Front in Liberian Civil War

MONROVIA, Liberia -- Insurgents attacked government forces Monday in Liberia's second-largest city, Buchanan, stepping up the war against President Charles Taylor's forces on a second front, government forces and aid workers said.

The Movement for Democracy in Liberia rebel movement, the smaller of Liberia's two rebel groups, launched the offensive on the southeastern city of Buchanan.

"We received attack in Buchanan," Defense Minister Daniel Chea said.

Workers of the British aid group Merlin told their Monrovia office that there was gunfire in the streets of Buchanan. Reached by telephone, a leader of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia declared his fighters "will take Buchanan any hour from now."

"The only thing we can do is to push on and remove Taylor from his offensive positions," rebel official Boi Bleaju Boi said, accusing government forces of provoking the offensive with attacks on his group.

Once they take the city, Boi said, rebels would be willing to open its port to any peacekeeping mission.

"Any hour from now, you'll be hearing from Buchanan," Boi pledged.

The southeastern city contains the only significant port still in government hands, after rebels seized Monrovia's port July 19 at the start of their now nine-day-old siege of the capital.

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled to Buchanan in recent days, escaping the fighting in Monrovia, only to find combat now in Buchanan.

U.S. Ambassador John Blaney on Sunday said he had urged the Movement for Democracy in Liberia rebels to spare Buchanan.

The Movement for Democracy in Liberia has fewer fighters than the larger Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy movement, but is believed to be better-disciplined and better-armed. Neighboring Ivory Coast is alleged to be backing the smaller rebel group as a way of blocking incursions onto its soil by Liberian fighters.