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.

Voices
voicesExclusive: Pete Doherty on drugs and his demons
Sport
footballLIVE: All the latest from today's late game at the Emirates
News
newsNew images splice vintage WWII photos with modern-day setting
Sport
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines