President George W. Bush ordered US troops to take up positions off Liberia as mortar bombs pounded Monrovia in fighting between the government and rebels that killed another 23 people and wounded some 200. \nAs Bush stepped up backing for a planned West African peacekeeping mission, the rebels declared an immediate ceasefire on Friday but vowed to defend positions after a day in which shells struck schools packed with refugees and near a hospital. \nA reporter in Monrovia said he could still hear mortar bombs slamming into the city and gunfire after the truce declaration, made on the eve of the anniversary on which freed American slaves founded Liberia in 1847 in the name of liberty. \nThe rebels and forces loyal to President Charles Taylor have been battling for more than a week for control of the coastal capital as West African states discuss deploying peacekeepers. \nBut no date has been set and US officials said warships with American troops were seven to 10 days sailing time away. Diplomats in the region said they believed Nigerian peacekeepers would arrive by the end of next week. \n"We are deeply concerned the condition of the Liberian people is getting worse and worse and worse," Bush told reporters in Washington as Friday's deaths added to a government-issued toll of several hundred in the past few days. \n"Today I did order for our military in limited numbers to head into the area to help [the deployment of West African peacekeepers] to relieve human suffering," Bush said. \nWhite House spokesman Scott McClellan kept up Washington's vagueness on whether it planned to put combat troops on the ground in Liberia. "We'll continue to assess what the US role is in supporting [West African peacekeepers]," he said. \nIn Monrovia, few traumatized residents had much strength to celebrate news that US warships with troops were on their way as they searched for food and shelter from bombs and bullets. \n"We feel so happy. I just want to appeal to the Americans to move as quickly as possible so that more people do not die," Harry Bull said outside the US embassy. \nLiberians believe the US has a moral obligation to save a country founded by freed American slaves that has been crippled by nearly 14 years of almost non-stop civil war. \nFriday's fighting marked a bloody escalation in the seesaw battle for Monrovia that started last weekend as rebels bent on toppling Taylor launched their third assault since June. \nScattered belongings lay amid pools of blood and bodies were covered with white sheets at Newport Junior High School, where hundreds of displaced people had sought shelter. Mortar bombs struck the school on Friday, killing eight people. \nAmong the dead was 11-year-old Vaani Rogers, who like others had ventured out in search of water just after 7am, hoping any new fighting would not have started early in the day. \n"He went out with the kettle to get water to wash his face. I heard the rocket and I called him `Vaani' but he was dead," said his father Morris. "I'm just crying."
FORCED LABOR: Customs officials have seized a 11.8 tonne shipment of products made from human hair on suspicion they were produced by people facing human rights abuses Federal authorities in New York City on Wednesday seized a shipment of weaves and other beauty accessories suspected to be made out of human hair taken from people locked inside a Chinese internment camp. US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) officials said that 11.8 tonnes of hair products worth an estimated US$800,000 were in the shipment. “The production of these goods constitutes a very serious human rights violation, and the detention order is intended to send a clear and direct message to all entities seeking to do business with the United States that illicit and inhumane practices will not be tolerated in
HONG KONG SECURITY: The president blasted regulations requiring Taiwanese agents or political organizations to provide information on their Hong Kong-related activities President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday warned of countermeasures should controversial Chinese national security legislation imposed on Hong Kong undermine or harm Taiwanese interests. Article 43 of the legislation empowers the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to serve written notices to Taiwanese political organizations or individual agents to furnish information on their Hong Kong-related activities, including their personal particulars, finances, assets, expenditure and capital in the territory. Failure to comply or providing false or incomplete information can result in a fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,903) or imprisonment of six months or two years respectively. Tsai said that Taiwan would keep a close watch on how
JUST QUESTIONS: Expelled reporter Ai Kezhu said that every member of Southeast Television had complied with the law and had not appeared on any talk shows Two Chinese reporters yesterday left Taiwan after the government revoked their accreditation and ordered them to leave amid a probe into allegations that several Chinese media outlets have set up studios and produced political talk shows in Taiwan. The two reporters — Ai Kezhu (艾珂竹) and Lu Qiang (盧薔) — worked for Fujian Province-based Southeast Television and arrived in Taiwan in December last year. The Mainland Affairs Council has launched an investigation after local media reported that Chinese broadcasters — including China Central Television, Southeast Television and FJTV — had set up studios in Taipei and produced political talk shows. Council Deputy Minister
PROBE LAUNCHED: An officer who served as a supervisor in the drill died in an apparent suicide after the accident, which was caused by unexpected waves Two marines who were on Friday injured in a military exercise in the waters off Kaohsiung passed away yesterday, Navy Command said. The marines — surnamed Tsai (蔡), 26, and a sergeant surnamed Chen (陳), 36 — were in a seven-member Marine Corps team that encountered rough seas during a simulated response to enemy forces landing on Taiwan. Their rubber craft overturned in waters off Taoziyuan (桃子園) beach in Zuoying District (左營), injuring four of the marines. They were rushed to hospital, where three of them — Tsai, Chen and a 34-year-old sergeant — were taken to an intensive care unit