Liberians flee renewed violence

 

THOUSANDS of residents of the Liberian capital packed into a US embassy compound yesterday as widespread shooting continued for a third day, leading US officials to contemplate an evacuation.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 Monrovians had arrived by yesterday afternoon at the Greystone compound, a 27 acre residential complex opposite the US embassy in the Mamba Point district of the capital, US diplomatic sources said.

Mamba Point, which houses several embassies as well as United Nations and other aid agency headquarters, was yesterday afternoon considered the only safe area in Monrovia. Some 220 foreigners are now thought to be inside the US embassy.

Meanwhile, a US military team was on alert in Germany, awaiting orders to fly to the west African country to assess the possible evacuation of US nationals, the Pentagon announced.

The rest of Monrovia continued to be rocked by widespread shooting and looting yesterday, and around a central barracks clashes involving several armed factions broke out.

The weekend security breakdown began in the early hours of Saturday when armed police attempted to arrest the militia leader, "General" Roosevelt Johnson, on a murder charge.

Most of the shooting in the city is thought to be linked more with looting than actual combat. Fighters were seen removing wristwatches, money and other possessions from people fleeing to the Mamba Point district.

Leaders of all factions in Liberia's civil war signed a peace accord last August after a conflict which had left some 150,000 Liberians dead.

Catherine Cleary adds At least one Irish national is believed to have taken refuge in the US embassy compound. A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said she had no information on the number of Irish nationals in the city, as Ireland does not have a diplomatic mission there.