President Samuel K. Doe's government acknowledged Wednesday that rebels have captured Liberia's main port but said it will send forces to retake the city.
Acting Information Minister Moses Washington told a news conference that soldiers will make "gradual moves to recapture" the Atlantic port of Buchanan to minimize casualties.
Rebels of the National Patriotic Front led by Charles Taylor, a former Doe aide, invaded Liberia from its northeastern border with Ivory Coast on Dec. 24. Doe's troops have been unable to halt their advance.
The capture of Buchanan, 88 miles southeast of the capital, is a major victory for the rebels. It is the country's main port and exit point for iron ore, which earns more than 70% of the country's foreign currency. The mine itself, in northern Nimba county, was captured by rebels last week.
Doe, meanwhile, ordered the military and police to form a special team to track down the killers of 10 men found beheaded in the capital Monday and Tuesday.
Doe, noting reports that the victims were members of tribes that support the rebels, said the government "will not encourage, condone or resort to sectional killings of peaceful citizens."
Police said only one of the bodies had been identified, as Sgt. Y. S. Grabia of the Liberian army.
A diplomatic source in Monrovia, reached by telephone from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, said the killings were tribal murders related to the rebels' attempt to overthrow Doe.
The bodies were found "dumped around the city," the diplomat said, adding that all those killed were government soldiers from the Gio and Mano tribes to which many rebels belong.
International human rights organizations and survivors accuse Doe's troops of massacring hundreds of Gio and Mano civilians in the battle against insurgents. The rebels are accused of killing civilians of the Mandingo and Krahn tribes, to which Doe and many of his officers belong.
Taylor has accused Doe's government of corruption and bringing ruin to this West African nation, which was founded by freed American slaves in 1847. He calls himself a capitalist.
Doe seized power in a bloody 1980 coup that ousted the slaves' descendants, who discriminated against indigenous groups.