May 2, 1996 in Nation/World

Street Battles Move Closer To Liberian Warlord Home

Associated Press

Rebel factions moved their battles away from the U.S. embassy and into the neighborhood of Liberia’s main warlord on Wednesday, littering the streets with bodies and provoking a strong showing of U.S. force.

The spread of fighting came one day after Marines guarding the U.S. Embassy in this West African country shot and killed three Liberians who fired weapons toward the compound.

Thousands of people fled their homes as fighting erupted in the Paynesville residential section - a peaceful neighborhood until now - and inched toward adjacent Congo Town, home to warlords Charles Taylor and Alhaji Kromah.

American warships came so close to shore Wednesday that witnesses could see helicopters taking off from their decks. The ships moved further out to sea before nightfall.

It was the closest the warships had come since their arrival two weeks ago to deploy 230 Marines to guard the U.S. Embassy and help evacuate foreigners.

The shooting at the embassy Tuesday was the first exchange of gunfire involving U.S. troops in Monrovia since April 6, when government forces tried to arrest a rebel leader, setting off fierce fighting, mass evacuations and the closure of many international aid agencies. A temporary cease-fire was broken by the latest unrest.

Witnesses said the three Liberians killed Tuesday were rebels running toward the embassy firing their weapons while pursuing rival gunmen.

As a result, U.S. guards set up barricades Wednesday to prevent anyone from driving past the embassy. American officials spoke with faction leaders, warning them to tell their followers to stay away.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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