A top government commander admitted that rebels of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy(LURD) had seized control of the bridge, just 12 km from the capital.

“The rebels are there. They came very heavily armed,” chief of army staff Benjamin Yeaten said.

 “It looks like they are trying to attack Monrovia,” he added.

Fighting has erupted between forces of President Charles Taylor and the rebels despite a truce agreed upon by both sides for paving the way for deployment of international peacekeepers.

Several West African countries are to deploy an initial peacekeeping force of up to 1,500 troops in a first step towards ending Liberia’s 14-years of non-stop civil war.

The United States is also expected to deploy some troops in order to bolster the peacekeeping efforts.

In a statement, LURD meanwhile blamed Taylor’s troops for attacking their positions first. 

“We are now informing the Liberian people and the international community that should such unprovoked attacks continue, we will have no recourse but to retaliate with all-out force to overrun Monrovia,” the statement said.

“The situation is very tensed. Everybody is very frightened"

--Foreign Aid Worker

Last month, LURD had twice driven into Monrovia, triggering fierce fighting that left more than 700 civilians dead.

Together with another rebel group known as Model, LURD has been fighting government forces to oust Taylor.

Indicted by a UN war crimes tribunal, Taylor has agreed to step down and seek asylum in neighboring Nigeria. But he insists he would do so only after US peacekeepers arrive in Liberia.

“The situation is very tensed. Everybody is very frightened,” said a foreign aid worker in the country.