Arrests of Opposition Politicians and Other Reported
Undated (AP) _ Liberian government troops on Thursday began arresting suspected supporters of a thwarted coup and an opposition political party’s headquarters burned down, an official and residents reported from the capital city of Monrovia.
Residents said Liberia’s borders and airports remained closed two days after the coup attempt, but Gen. Samuel K. Doe’s administration said fighting had ended and most of the rebels had been killed or captured. No final numbers were given.
Doe ordered stores and businesses to return to normal operations immediately, according to Liberian radio reports monitored Thursday by the British Broadcasting Corp.
The broadcasts, by Monrovia’s private Christian radio station Elwa, also announced that army commander Gen. Maurice Zeze had been fired and would be replaced by Gen. Rudolf Kolaco, Liberia’s ambassador to India.
Asked by The Associated Press why Zeze had been dismissed, Doe’s press secretary, Patrick Kugmeh, replied: ″Why do you think? He did not make any move. He was dismissed for not taking appropriate action″ during Tuesday’s coup attempt.
Kugmeh added in the telephone interview by the AP in London that Liberian authorities on Thursday had also ″brought in for interrogation in connection with the failed coup″ two opposition politicians.
He identified them as Carlos Smith, head of the Unity Party, and Mrs. Ellen Johnson, who won a seat in the Senate for the Liberia Action Party in the Oct. 15 national elections.
Residents of Monrovia, reached by telephone from Abidjan, capital of the neighboring Ivory Coast, said the headquarters of the Liberia Action Party burned down Wednesday night during the dusk-to-dawn curfew, when only the military was allowed out on the streets.
The Liberia Action Party is one of three opposition parties that accused Doe, who came to power in a 1980 military coup, of rigging elections last month that won him the presidency.
The leader of Tuesday’s attempted coup, Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa, supported Doe in the 1980 when President William Tolbert was overthrown and executed.
Liberia’s military chief of staff was quoted as saying 20 to 40 men took part in the attempt, most of them mercenaries from Cuba, the Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
In a statement in the Cuban capital, Havana, the Foreign Ministry denied any Cubans were involved, the official news agency Prensa Latina reported. It said the only Cubans in the country were two diplomats.
On Wednesday, Doe said 10 attackers were killed and 16 captured. But diplomatic sources in Monrovia, who spoke on condition of anonymity, say the death toll was probably much higher. Liberia’s state radio, monitored in Abidjan, continued to broadcast calls for blood donors at the government hospital.
Kugmeh told The Associated Press Wednesday night that five government loyalists had been wounded.
The press secretary quoted military chief of staff Lt. Gen. Henry Dubar as saying that ″key rebel figures″ had been arrested and Quiwonkpa still was being sought. Kugmeh said Quiwonkpa may be hiding in a foreign embassy in Monrovia.
Two captured rebels have been identified as Maj. Anthony Y. Marque and Col. John Aequoi, Kugmeh said.
Kugmeh said Marque had said most of those involved in the plot were recruited in the Ivory Coast and flown to Freetown in Sierra Leone, where they recruited more men. Then they traveled by road to Liberia, Kugmeh said.
Doe, who says he is 35, was elected president for a six-year term on Oct. 15 in what his government described as Liberia’s first multiparty election under universal adult suffrage.
Liberia, founded in 1847 by freed American slaves, has a population of 2 million and is the only black African country never to have fallen under European colonial rule.