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Swiss consul found safe in war-torn Liberia

Rebels trying to overthrow President Charles Taylor were feared to have kidnapped Landolt

(Keystone)

The Swiss honorary consul to Liberia, Jürg Landolt, has been found "safe and sound" in the north of the country after disappearing during fighting in the capital, Monrovia.

Earlier, family friends had said that he and his Swiss assistant had been kidnapped by rebels staging an attempted coup.

The Swiss foreign ministry said on Sunday that Landolt and his assistant were discovered north of Monrovia a day after they disappeared along with two other Europeans.

Landolt, who owns a brewery, and his colleague, went missing on Saturday as the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) surged towards the capital, in a bid to overthrow the president, Charles Taylor.

With them was a Liberian woman (who is married to a Swiss), her two children and a British citizen, according to the European Union mission in Monrovia, the foreign ministry said.

Kidnapped

It was not clear whether they had been kidnapped by fighters belonging to LURD or simply went missing during the chaos that has descended on Monrovia.

"We are in contact with the EU mission in Monrovia and our embassy in Accra, Ghana," Muriel Berset Kohen, a spokeswoman for the foreign ministry, told swissinfo.

"And we cannot confirm that they have been kidnapped," she had said earlier on Sunday.

However, a friend of Landolt's family had told the Associate Press news agency that Landolt, his assistant and two other Europeans had been taken by the rebels as they temporarily retreated from the capital.

Intense fighting

Government troops were trying to prevent the rebels from storming the city on Sunday, while a senior LURD member reportedly gave Taylor a 72-hour ultimatum to step down.

Thousands of civilians have fled Monrovia for safety, but many found escape routes blocked by rebels, who hold two-thirds of the country.

"Conditions are dreadful," said Magnus Wolfe-Murray of British aid agency Merlin.

"There are anything between 300,000 and 700,000 people in Monrovia without anywhere to stay," he added.

There are two rebel factions in Liberia trying to depose Taylor, amidst violence that has rocked the country for nearly 14 years.

Taylor has been indicted by a United Nations-backed court for war crimes in Sierre Leone, and the United States has told him to step down and face the court.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Swiss honorary consul to Liberia, Juerg Landolt, has been found safe in the north of the country after disappearing on Saturday.

The Swiss foreign ministry said Landolt's Swiss assistant, a Liberian woman (who is married to a Swiss man), her two children and a British citizen were also found.

The group went missing this weekend when rebels attacked the capital, Monrovia, in a bid to topple President Charles Taylor.

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