Rebels Capture Key City in Liberia
Rebels captured Buchanan, Liberia’s second-largest city, on Monday, depriving President Charles Taylor of the last significant port into which the government could ship supplies of fuel and food.
Gen. Benjamin Yeaten, a leading government commander, confirmed that Buchanan fell to fighters from the Liberian rebel group Movement for Democracy in Liberia. The port in the capital, Monrovia, was already in rebel hands.
Scores of government fighters in pickup trucks raced out of Monrovia toward Buchanan, about 60 miles to the southeast. One commander said the government was “massing our troops outside to retake the city.”
Military sources said fighting also raged in the city of Gbarnga, which was Taylor’s stronghold during a civil war in the 1990s.
Battles raged in the heart of Monrovia for the 10th day Monday as representatives of West African countries met with U.S. military experts in Ghana but failed to agree on a date to deploy peacekeepers to Liberia.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo told the BBC on Monday that his country was ready to send 1,500 peacekeepers but needed a promise of help first.
Monrovians scrambled in search of food as heavy rain fell and bullets flew around them. People set buckets and bowls under tin roofs to collect rainwater to drink. Others killed dogs and cats to eat as food supplies ran short and prices soared.
The government says 1,000 civilians have been killed in the latest attack on the capital.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the “reckless behavior” of the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy was disqualifying it from a future role in Africa’s oldest independent republic.