Liberian rebels attack refugee camp, thousands flee
MONROVIA, Liberia, June 21 (UNHCR) - Liberian rebels attacked a refugee camp in the town of Sinje near the border with Sierra Leone before dawn Thursday, taking with them five local nurses and forcing thousands of refugees and Liberians to flee.
The rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), claimed responsibility for the attack on Sinje camp, which had held 11,000 Sierra Leonean refugees and about 8,000 displaced Liberians. The 4,000 to 5,000 residents of the town were also believed to have fled.
A rebel commander who identified himself as "General Skeleton" radioed UNHCR that LURD fighters were holding five nurses from the medical NGO, Merci, which works with UNHCR.
The commander said the women were being taken to the rebel stronghold of Voinjama near the Guinean border. He said the women were unhurt. One woman was allowed to speak on the radio of their ambulance to say she and the others were being treated well.
UNHCR is appealing to the rebels to immediately release the nurses and the ambulance.
Sinje camp is located 80 km north-east of Monrovia, on the road towards the Sierra Leone border. The area was the scene of sporadic clashes last month. It has not received aid since.
UNHCR's last radio contact with the camp was at 9:15 a.m. when it advised 60 local NGO workers and refugees to leave. Staff had reported that they could hear heavy gunfire in the direction of Kle Junction, mid-way between Sinje and Monrovia.
In Zimmi, Sierra Leone, UNHCR staff are on standby for a possible influx of Sierra Leonean refugees and Liberians from Sinje.
Because of the security situation on the roads, UNHCR is considering transporting by sea those among the 35,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia who want to return home.