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Aid workers missing after border town fighting

Three workers of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) who were caught up in fighting in Toe Town, close to Liberia's border with Cote d'Ivoire border, were reported missing on Tuesday by the agency. Other sources said eight people who were travelling in an ADRA vehicle were killed during the fighting between Liberian government forces and rebels.

ADRA said in a statement that it had received confirmed reports to the effect that Emmanuel Sharpolu, its Liberia director, Karre Lund, its Norway director, and driver Musa Kita were missing. The three men were on their way to a Norwegian-funded project when they drove into the battle zone. The agency noted that ADRA's implementing partner, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), had identified the remains of ADRA's burned-out vehicle.

"Efforts are underway to locate the three ADRA workers still missing, but continued unrest in the area poses a challenge," the statement said. "Updates on the situation will be released as and when information becomes available."

Liberia's defence spokesman, Philibert Browne, reported that the ADRA vehicle had been ambushed by "retreating LURD rebels" during weekend fighting in Toe Town, and that its "eight" occupants were killed.

Toe Town, a transit point for people fleeing fighting in Cote d'Ivoire, had been captured on Saturday by what the Liberian government described as "Liberian mercenaries armed and backed by the Ivorian government". Browne told IRIN government forces had "taken full control of Toe Town as of Monday". The Liberian government sent a team of journalists to the eastern border town on Monday to verify that it had been recaptured.

UNHCR's Resident Representative, Moses Okello told IRIN on Monday that over 2000 Ivorian refugees and other third-country nationals had fled the transit centre and scattered in different directions when the town was attacked. "We have reports that some are fleeing south towards Zwedru and north towards Tappita," Okello said.

Zwedru is the administrative capital of Grand Gedeh County, which includes Toe Town. Tappita is a district in Nimba County, which borders on Grand Gedeh.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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