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Liberian V.P. Dies Mysteriously

June 25, 2000

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) _ Liberia’s vice president, Enoch Dogolea, has died after a short illness and the government has ordered an autopsy to allay speculation of foul play, state radio said Sunday. Dogolea was 48.

Officials said Dogolea died early Saturday after going into a coma at a private hospital in Abidjan, the commercial capital of neighboring Ivory Coast, where he was flown after falling sick last week.

One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Dogolea suffered a stroke, although this could not be independently confirmed.

The state radio station said warlord-turned-President Charles Taylor ordered an autopsy in order to refute ``speculation″ the vice president had been either ``poisoned or beaten to death by presidential guards.″ Dogolea paid a private visit to Taylor’s farm shortly before his death, some officials said.

Taylor dismissed the rumors of foul play as ``the work of detractors to tarnish his image and cause national instability,″ the station said.

A group representing University of Liberia students from Dogolea’s home region of Nimba County, meanwhile, called for the autopsy to be conducted by Ivorian authorities. The group also accused the government of denying Dogolea access to proper medical care, but did not give details.

``Our call is prompted by widespread speculation about the cause of Mr. Dogolea’s illness,″ the group said in a statement broadcast on the radio station.

Dogolea, who in the 1980s went into exile as an opposition campaigner against the rule of former President Samuel Doe, later joined Taylor’s fledgling rebel group which fought a brutal seven-year civil war against several factions. Relative calm was restored in 1996 and Taylor won elections a year later.

For nearly all of the war, Dogolea served as Taylor’s deputy and became vice-president immediately after the election. It was not clear who would replace him.

No immediate funeral arrangements were made and it was not immediately clear whether the body would be flown back to Liberia. Church music and messages of condolences from sympathizers were broadcast on state-run radio and flags were lowered to half-staff.

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