July 21, 1997 in Nation/World

Taylor Leads In Liberian Elections

Compiled From Wire Services

The man blamed for starting Liberia’s civil war took a strong lead in the presidential vote Sunday, according to early returns. His main challenger surprised election officials by claiming widespread fraud.

With 13 percent of the nation’s 1,890 polling stations reporting, Charles Taylor had 62 percent of the vote compared to 18 percent for his closest rival, former U.N. official Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, elections officials said Sunday night.

Taylor’s early lead was enough to spark spontaneous eruptions of glee by his supporters - mainly teenage boys who made up the bulk of his fighting force during Liberia’s seven-year civil war.

Complete official results were not expected until later this week due to the poor communications and difficult terrain in this West African nation.

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