Marines secure US embassy in Liberia after attack

US marines were flown in to secure the American embassy in Monrovia yesterday after it came under mortar fire and at least 70 people were reported killed in fierce battles in the Liberian capital.

As the Pentagon readied more than 4,000 troops for a possible peace-keeping intervention, marines who had been stationed in neighbouring Sierra Leone leapt out of helicopters to protect the compound. In the bloodiest day of fighting in two months, 25 people were killed at an American diplomatic compound across the street from the embassy, as mortars pounded the diplomatic quarter. Three people at the embassy were injured.

More than 10,000 Liberians had taken refuge in the diplomatic compound from the fighting between rebels and forces loyal to President, Charles Taylor.

An angry crowd of Liberians laid out 18 mangled bodies, one of them headless, in front of the embassy building, demanding American intervention. "We are going to die for nothing," the crowd shouted.

With the three-year civil war seemingly moving towards a climax, Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, signed an order to redeploy a three-vessel naval and marine force from the Horn of Africa to the Mediterranean, from where it could reach the west African country in little more than a week. But President George Bush repeated that he had not yet decided on when or how large a peace-keeping force would be dispatched to Liberia. "We continue to monitor the situation very closely," Mr Bush said.

The rebel offensive to oust Mr Taylor has now reached the heart of the capital. It was not clear which side fired the mortars that smashed into the US embassy compound, and the Pentagon said it did not appear to be a deliberate target.

Aid workers and journalists were evacuated by the helicopter that brought the marines. Eleanor Monbiot of World Vision, who was among those being evacuated said her organisation had been forced to stop distributing food on Friday. Up to half a million people have crammed into Monrovia in recent weeks to escape the fighting. A million people in total are thought to be displaced, many in camps north of the capital.

Clustered on street corners yesterday, Liberians listened on radios to news of the American marines being deployed to defend the US embassy. The 41 soldiers were deployed from a base in Spain at the request of the US ambassador to Liberia, John Blaney, to help protect the embassy. But their arrival only fuelled local anger at Washington's unwilingness to commit a larger force to help impose a ceasefire.

The US indicated it would only send peace-keepers after a force from other west African countries, led by Nigeria, had moved to restore order. Washington says Mr Taylor must first leave the country.

The Liberian leader has accepted in principle an offer of asylum from Nigeria ­ but says he will leave only when a peacekeeping operation is in place.

The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, urged Washington to deploy troops "before it is too late" and warned rebel groups that any seizure of power would not be recognised by the international community.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform