New rebel group pushes closer to capital

A new rebel group, Movement for Democracy in Liberia (M0DEL) has attacked the strategic southeast Liberian coastal town of Greenville, while an older rebel group hit Tappita in the northeastern county of Nimba.

Defence sources told IRIN that MODEL attacked the port city of Greenville, provincial headquarters of Sinoe County, on Saturday. They said the attackers came from Paynes town, also in Sinoe. The county is close to Grand Gedeh, which has seen fighting between rebels and pro-government forces for the past few months. Grand Gedeh is on the border with western Cote d'Ivoire.

Several armed groups are reported to be operating in eastern Liberia and western Cote d'Ivoire: forces loyal to the Ivorian government; Ivorian rebels; forces opposed to Liberian President Charles Taylor; and armed groups which work for one or other of the belligerents or for themselves, according to humanitarian sources.

Residents had fled Grenville for Buchanan, a coastal city farther west, before Saturday's attack. Logging companies in the area suspended operations.

Defense sources said Tappita, the largest town in Nimba County other than Ganta, was also attacked by MODEL on Saturday. The attack came after the rebel group overran government troops at a location between Tappita and Zwedru, near the border with Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire. The attack on Tappita came as government troops failed in an attempt to retake the border town of Ganta from another rebel group, the LURD (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy).

During the LURD attack on Ganta, some residents of Ganta had fled to Tappita and surrounding villages.

MODEL comprises former loyalists of the late Liberian president Samuel Doe - killed in September 1990 during the early days of a civil war when Taylor led the then National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) faction.

MODEL has been in control of Zwedru since March.