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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Wednesday 23 March 2005

LIBERIA: Petrol bombers attack UN checkpoint in Ganta

MONROVIA, 23 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - One United Nations peacekeeper in Liberia was seriously wounded and another slightly injured when a group of young men threw a petrol bomb at a UN checkpoint in the northern town of Ganta, UN officials said on Wednesday.

Local residents told IRIN that at least two former military commanders of former president Charles Taylor were among the group that threw the molotov cocktail which set the checkpoint ablaze.

Paul Risley, the official spokesman of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), said the attack occurred during the early hours of Tuesday. The two injured men were both members of the Bangladeshi contingent stationed in Ganta, he added.

"Our information on this attack is still developing. This is a really serious breach of security and is a situation that will require our peacekeepers at checkpoints to be on guard and take extra precaution," Risley said.

The checkpoint targeted by the attackers is located on the outskirts of Ganta, a town on the Guinean border, 270 kilometres northeast of the capital Monrovia. Close to UNMIL's military base at the United Methodist Mission.

The town was once a stronghold of Taylor, a warlord who dominated Liberia for most of the country's 1989-2003 civil war, but who was forced to step down as president and go into exile in Nigeria when it ended.

The UN Civilian Police Commissioner Muhammed Alhassan told IRIN local people had helped UNMIL to arrest several suspects in Ganta following the petrol bomb attack.

"We mounted a serious operation. Twenty-five persons were arrested and six of them are being seriously investigated in connection with this incident," he said.

Residents in Ganta told IRIN by telephone that the accused were brought into custody after a raid on the town's run-down 'Ghetto' area, where young men go to smoke marijuana. This is situated close to the checkpoint which came under atttack.

UNMIL have threatened to press charges against them.

"We want to ensure that the individuals who caused this attack are arrested and to bring charges against them if necessary," Risley said.

There are currently 15,000 peacekeepers in Liberia as part of a UN mandate that followed a peace deal signed by the warring factions in August 2003.

This is the first time that UN peacekeepers have come under attack in Liberia.


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