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Aid groups defy Liberia carnage as President goes into exile

Church aid workers are defying ferocious fighting and horrific conditions to continue providing aid to helpless civilians in Liberia.

President Charles Taylor quit the country early this morning Australian time and flew into exile in Nigeria under pressure from the world community. His former vice president, Moses Blah, has been sworn in as the west African country's 22nd President.

The international community hopes Mr Taylor's departure will speed an end to violence that has racked the region for nearly 14 years.

British Caritas agency CAFOD head Antonio Cabral said that despite Catholic churches and buildings being hit by direct shell fire with catastrophic consequences, the group had managed to keep open two out of its four shelters in the capital Monrovia.

He said war-weary inhabitants were now praying that the introduction of peacekeeping forces which began last week would see an end to the cycle of violence which has gripped the city.

"Many churches have been affected and last week a family sheltering in a church were killed as a shell ripped through the building," said Mr Cabral. "There have been huge structural losses in the country including schools, housing and church centres."

He added that the headquarters of Monrovia's popular Catholic radio station Veritas had been badly damaged " a bitter blow.

The Universe

Liberia leader set to stand down (BBC)
Taylor hands over reins in Liberia (ABC)
Liberian rebels, loyalists celebrate (
As Aid Workers Return, Liberia Is Unsafe and in Ruins (National Geographic News)
Interview with Archbishop of Monrovia, Michael Francis (CAFOD)
Personal experience in Monrovia, Liberia - 11 August (CAFOD)
Conflict in Liberia (Catholic Relief Services)
Missionary says hungry Liberians walking to streets looking for food (4/8/03)

12 Aug 2003