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West African Forces Ready to Fight

February 21, 1998

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) _ West African troops staged military exercises Saturday near the Liberian capital of Monrovia in anticipation of further fighting in neighboring Sierra Leone.

The West African coalition force, known as Ecomog, also was shifting more troops from Liberia to Sierra Leone.

The Nigerian-dominated task force earlier this month drove out Sierra Leone’s military junta to clear the way for the return of that country’s elected president, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.

Although the coalition force is in full control of the capital, Freetown, rebel fighters allied with Lt. Col. Johnny Paul Koroma’s ousted military regime continued to put up resistance in at least three towns in central Sierra Leone.

Ecomog commanders in Liberia were staging the military exercises to test several large weapons, according to a communique from the military command in Monrovia.

It did not disclose the exact size or type of weapons but warned residents and ships offshore Monrovia’s beach front to stay clear of the area.

``Ships, tankers, aircraft and fishing trawlers are advised to keep their distance,″ Ecomog said in the statement.

Thousands of Ecomog troops originally sent to Liberia to oversee the implementation of a peace accord and elections last year are being redeployed to Sierra Leone.

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