UN Says Liberia Security Threats Persist as Troop Numbers Cut

The United Nations will reduce the size of its military operation in Liberia by more than half even as the organization said the West African nation is still facing major security challenges.

The UN peacekeeping operation in Liberia, known as UNMIL, will be cut by four infantry battalions, or about 4,200 troops, to 3,750 soldiers by 2015, the UN Security Council said on its website. The first group of almost 2,000 personnel is to leave within a year, it said.

UNMIL sent about 15,000 troops to the country after President Charles Taylor went into exile in 2003, ending a 14-year civil war that destroyed much of the Liberia’s infrastructure. Taylor was found guilty earlier this year with crimes against humanity related to a conflict in neighboring Sierra Leone.

The peacekeepers in Liberia will be sent home gradually as the country “is still far from attaining a steady state of security,” the Security council said, citing a report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“The main security threats are internal, particularly civil unrest, and there is a recurrent tendency for minor incidents to escalate into violent confrontations,” Ban said in the report.

The council urged Liberia and neighboring Ivory Coast to strengthen cooperation at the border, and to “stabilize” the area through information sharing, according to the statement. Seven UN peacekeepers deployed in Ivory Coast were killed earlier this year by attackers from Liberia.

Companies including ArcelorMittal, which last year shipped its first iron ore from Liberia, and Chevron Corp. are active in the country. Economic growth is estimated at 9 percent this year, according to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

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