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Liberia Refugees Fear Incursion

November 1, 1997

GANTA, Liberia (AP) _ Refugees returning from neighboring Guinea say hundreds of ex-fighters from Liberia’s civil war are rearming themselves and training for a possible attack on the country.

None of the refugees, who spoke Friday at the border city of Ganta, would give their names for fear of retribution, but dozens said they saw Liberians undergoing training on the other side of the border.

The refugees have begun returning home following a year of peace in Liberia, where a seven-year civil war ended last year.

The country’s former chief warlord, Charles Taylor, won July presidential elections by a landslide and has promised to work with former fighters of rival factions to ensure the peace accord holds.

In the months leading to the election, however, thousands of fighters who did not want to disarm are believed to have fled across the country’s borders with their weapons. Returning refugees in Ganta said in recent weeks, some of those fighters had smuggled weapons caches back into Liberia and hidden them in the forests of northern Lofa Country, near the Guinea border.

Their allegations coincide with a marked increase in insecurity in the area. About 2,000 people have fled into neighboring Nimba County in the past week because of banditry in Lofa.

Lofa was the stronghold of warlord Alhaji Kromah and his Ulimo-K faction during the war. Kromah was one of a dozen candidates who lost to Taylor in July.

Security remains the biggest challenge facing Liberia’s new government, which depends on West African peacekeeping soldiers to prevent a renewal of warfare. About 10,000 peacekeepers are deployed across the country and are credited with ensuring a peaceful presidential campaign and election, but they are due to begin pulling out in January.

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