Nigerian jets bomb rebel advance on Monrovia


Mark Huband in Nairobi

The Guardian, 26 October 1992


WEST Africa edged towards a crisis yesterday when Nigerian aircraft bombed rebels three miles from the Liberian capital, Monrovia. Regional leaders, who support different factions in the three-year civil war, cannot agree on how to end the conflict.

Nigeria, which dominates a 7,000-strong West African peacekeeping force sent to Liberia in 1990 in an attempt to halt the war, has sent reinforcements and planes to repel an attempt by Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia to occupy Monrovia.

Artillery, mortar and machine-gun fire burst out near the peacekeeping force’s headquarters three miles from the city centre. The United Nations said 50,000 people fled their homes on Saturday alone. Hospitals said four civilians were killed and more than 100 injured, the worst casualties since rebels started trying to take Monrovia five days ago.

The NPFL yesterday freed four UN workers it had held for three days after accusing them of passing on information that helped the West African force bomb NPFL headquarters.

Nigeria’s onslaught against the NPFL seems more the result of exasperation than a feeling it will end the two-year deadlock in negotiations. Twelve meetings have failed to bring the factions together.

The renewed fighting comes a week after a poorly attended meeting of West African countries in Benin exposed stark regional differences. The leaders failed to agree on a ceasefire and sanctions policy, with countries lining up behind Nigeria, which opposes Mr Taylor, and the Ivory Coast, which supports him.

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