Dissidents Overrun Government Forces, Capture Zorzor and Salayea
December 21, 2001
The Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) has made some gains in recent days .. According to Liberian government Defense Minister Daniel Chea, the dissidents overran government forces on December 19 in a battle for the control of Zorzor. Mr. Chea told BBC on Wednesday that, "About 4:00 a.m. this morning [December 19], about 75 well-armed LURD fighters crossed into Liberia from Guinea through the border town of Yeala and attacked Zorzor". He said that government forces were driven from Zorzor into Sukromu, a nearby village. Zorzor has changed hands several times since the war started about two years.
LURD is fighting to unseat Charles Taylor after waging a brutal seven-year civil war that killed about 250,000 people.
Government officials recently claimed successes. They claimed that Kolahun, the dissidents' stronghold, had been captured. But military experts doubt that the government forces are still in control Kolahun.
Speaking on behalf of the dissidents yesterday, the spokesman for the dissidents - Charles Bennie, said: “we have captured towns including Salayea - that is in central Liberia, Bong County. We have also captured Zawolo, that is of course [in] Lofa County, Camp Alpha (Bomi)…”
The dissidents also claimed to have killed some senior Liberian military officers including Sgt. Maj. Harris (Border Task Forces - ID # 5280), Lt. Col . Patrick Borpaye (from Taylor’s Special Security Service - SSS), Lt. Col. Anthony K. Gaye (Advance Team Commander, Executive Mansion), Maj. Isaac K. Paye (SSS), and Capt Andrew Paye (Anti Terrorist Unit). Mr. Bennie also claimed that 50 of the government troops have surrendered to LURD.
Acknowledging the gains made by the dissidents, President Taylor said, “Well enemy forces entered Zorzor and Salayea - out of Guinea. There are attempts now being made at Juah from the Guinean side - I did raise it with President Obasanjo. And Liberians must prepare for this kind of crisis for a long time. And what do I mean? It is evident that President Conte is using the war in Liberia to perpetuate himself in power. By continuing this crisis in Liberia, he makes the case in Guinea that only he can keep Guinea from crisis.”
Mr. Taylor also said, “ECOWAS is condemning the violence in Liberia by the LURD, the wanton murder of our people and rape of our young children and women and all of that."
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