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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn