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Rebels Hack Villagers To Death; Nigerian Jets Attack Aid Convoy

April 19, 1993

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) _ Survivors of a weekend guerrilla attack in Liberia said Monday that rebels hacked 15 villagers to death near the Firestone rubber plantation company town of Harbel.

On the other side of the lines, fighter jets in the West African intervention force attacked relief agency vehicles behind rebel lines Sunday, jeopardizing efforts to save starving refugees, aid workers said.

In Harbel, 25 miles east of the capital Monrovia, 10-year-old James Tamba said rebels came to his home Saturday night, set huts on fire, then rounded up villagers and attacked them with cutlasses and daggers.

″I don’t even know where my mother has fled to,″ he cried. Tamba was slashed in the shoulder but escaped and was brought to Monrovia’s Swedish Relief Hospital, where a reporter spoke to him Monday.

Doctors showed several victims with deep cuts all over their bodies, including an old woman whose eye was gouged out.

Also Sunday, gunners in four jets fired missiles and machine-gun bullets for 30 minutes at a convoy of four vehicles carrying the red-and-white flags of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), the Belgian-based agency said.

The deputy commander of the Nigerian-led West African force said rebels use the aid convoys to send ″all sorts of things″ into territory they are holding.

″We are fighting a war in the area,″ Brig. Gen. Victor S. Malu said in a telephone interview from his Monrovia headquarters.

Agencies say they do not allow guerrillas to use their convoys.

Relations between aid groups and the West African force have grown increasingly confrontational since agencies accused the soldiers of indiscriminate bombing with little regard for civilian lives. Last month, the warplanes bombed the biggest hospital behind guerrilla lines.

Dozens of civilians have been killed and hundreds wounded in air raids since the West Africans went on the offensive against Charles Taylor’s rebel forces in January. Civilians caught on the front line are dying of starvation.

The convoy attacked Sunday was carrying food as well as vaccines to fight a measles epidemic, and bringing other drugs and dressings for wounded civilians and clothes for refugees, Medecins Sans Frontieres said.

West African states sent troops to Liberia in 1990 after more than 20,000 civilians had been slaughtered in the rebellion Taylor began with an invasion from Ivory Coast on Christmas Eve 1989.

Thousands more died of starvation in Taylor’s 1990 siege of Monrovia, and nearly 1 million of Liberia’s 2.3 million people are refugees.

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