Thousands flee fighting as Liberian warlords close in for the kill

Monrovia - Peacekeeping troops blocked bridges leading into the war-torn city yesterday to prevent more gunmen from entering, but factional fighting raged for a third day and spread toward the neighbourhood of two government leaders.

Thousands of civilians began fleeing as fighting entered the Paynesville area and inched toward adjacent Congo Town, home to warlords Charles Taylor and Alhaji Kromah. The fighting was particularly heavy in Paynesville, which has long been controlled by Taylor's National Patriotic Front.

Fighting was also reported near the Barclay army barracks, and there was sporadic shooting in the Mamba Point diplomatic section, where US Marines shot and killed three Liberians who fired towards the compound on Tuesday.

The fighting in Paynesville indicated that the warlord Roosevelt Johnson's supporters were launching an assault aimed at Taylor and Kromah. The two men were rivals during Liberia's six-year civil war, but have since joined forces against Johnson.