Evacuees Speak Of Chaos, Widespread Fighting In Liberia With PM-Liberia
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ American and European nationals evacuated from war-torn Liberia by the U.S. Marines told today of widespread fighting between government and rebel troops and rampant looting.
About 40 people who were evacuated from the capital of Monrovia arrived in Amsterdam aboard a flight from Freetown in neighboring Sierra Leone.
In all, 94 U.S. and other nationals have been evacuated since Monday from the Liberian capital amid fighting between government troops loyal to beleaguered President Samuel K. Doe and rival rebel armies led by Charles Taylor and Prince Johnson.
″It looks as though the rebels are now fighting one another,″ said the Rev. Joe Brown, a Roman Catholic priest who ran the Arthur Barclay Business College in Monrovia.
″We had to flee for our lives,″ he said.
Brown, of Lancashire, England, said the evacuation was not blocked by the Liberians but: ″We could hear the shots in the city just nearby ... you could hear it going on all the time.″
U.S. Consul Penny McMurtry, of Alexandria, Va., said ″We’ve been basically confined to the (U.S. Embassy) compound for the last three weeks.
″There’s been a lot of heavy shooting in the vicinity, bullets (flying) across the compound,″ Ms. McMurtry said.
During the weekend, U.S. Marines evacuated 62 Americans and 12 other nationals to Sierra Leone. Another 20 people were taken out of Liberia on Monday.
In Washington, the U.S. State Department said forces loyal to rebel leader Johnson seized 14 to 15 foreigners, including one American national, Monday.
The rebel leader had threatened to take hostages to provoke outside intervention in the civil war.
Before the actual evacuation started, said security specialist Michael Jaquish, 50 Marines landed and formed a defensive perimeter outside the U.S. Embassy on seaside Mamba Point because of threats from Johnson.
″There were threats by Johnson to shoot at any aircraft or helicopters,″ said Jaquish, deputy general manager of the Wackenhut security company which guards U.S. government installations.
He said there was apparently no attempt to shoot down the helicopters.
Jaquish also said looting by government troops in rampant.
″The AFL (Armed Forces of Liberia) are going from house to house, looting everything, and carrying it to the (presidential) mansion’s grounds,″ he said. ″They are nothing but thieves.″