Nigerian jets bomb rebels in Monrovia


Mark Huband in Monrovia

The Guardian, 7 November 1992


NIGERIAN aircraft yesterday bombed targets inside territory held by Liberian guerrilla forces besieging Monrovia. The action came as West African ministers prepared to meet in Nigeria in an attempt to head off the regional crisis being provoked by the Liberian conflict.

After a night of artillery bombardments of territory held by Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia on the outskirts of the capital, Nigerian Alphajets of the West African peacekeeping force in Liberia launched dawn raids on NPFL positions in the suburbs of Gardnersville, Mount Barclay and Stockton Creek.

Planes also attacked areas close to the NPFL headquarters in the central Liberian town of Gbarnga, 100 miles north of Monrovia, on Thursday, NPFL radio reported. Senegalese troops yesterday fought NPFL forces four miles north of central Monrovia in the 72nd district where the NPFL is attacking a bridge linking Monrovia with the north of the country.

Nigeria has been pouring troops and military supplies into Liberia in preparation for a push against NPFL forces who attacked Monrovia on October 15, breaking a shaky ceasefire which had held since November, 1990.

The West African peacekeeping force was sent to Liberia to end fighting in the country’s civil war in August, 1990, with the intention of overseeing the disarmament and encampment of warring sides and preparations for elections.

Charles Taylor, the warlord who now controls about half the country, has repeatedly broken ceasefire agreements. Since March he has been under attack from a rival faction, the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (Ulimo).

Mr Taylor’s offensive, launched last month, has coincided with a breakdown in the regional negotiating process. It is now raising fears of increased tension between regional states.

Leaked accounts of meetings between the US ambassador in the Ivory Coast and the country’s foreign minister, Amara Essy, reveal nervousness about a Nigerian-led offensive against Mr Taylor.

The expected push would exclude an Ivorian role in finding a solution to the problems across its western border.

West African diplomats said yesterday that today’s Abuja meeting aimed at heading off a military push was just playing for time until all the necessary troops have been brought in.

“It’s becoming Nigeria’s war. Nigeria will attempt the total capitulation of Charles Taylor,” the source said.

Nigerian government sources said yesterday that Nigeria was looking to broaden its peacekeeping mandate if it finds itself being deserted by other members of the seven-nation force.

Under pressure from the United States, which finances its contingent in Liberia, Senegal was yesterday believed to have reversed a decision earlier this week to withdraw its troops due to the absence of the ceasefire they came to police.

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