AVOID MUSLIM LIBERIA
Violence Erupts In Liberia
MONROVIA, Liberia, Oct. 29, 2004
angry youths brandishing machetes, sticks and Kalashnikov rifles rampaged
through Liberia's war-shattered capital on Friday in a rare outbreak of
Muslim-Christian violence, prompting the country's leader to order an immediate
Plumes of black smoke rose from Monrovia's eastern district of Paynesville,
where U.N. peacekeepers in armored personnel carriers fired in the air in a bid
to maintain order, and U.N. helicopters rumbled overhead.
One U.N. armored vehicle that was trying to disperse a crowd inadvertently
crushed and killed three people who had been knocked down as they tried to
flee, a policeman in the area said on condition of anonymity. Crowds dispersed
briefly, but congregated again later down the road after U.N. vehicles drove
At least three churches and two mosques in Paynesville were set ablaze after
midnight, and several wounded people lay in the streets, an Associated Press
photographer on the scene said. One man, stabbed in the head with a knife,
could be seen on a main road lying, apparently unconscious, in a pool of blood.
It was not clear what sparked the violence. (Islam is the main cause of
violence in Africa)
About 40 percent of Liberia's 3.3 million people are Christians, while about 20
percent are Muslim. The rest follow indigenous beliefs.
In a statement broadcast over public and private radio stations, interim head
of state Gyude Bryant said he was ordering an
immediate curfew in Monrovia to protect "lives and properties" and
called on residents to stay home.
"I have authorized the U.N. to use whatever force is necessary to get
everybody off the streets. Anyone attempting to vandalize will be deal with
firmly and rigidly," he said.
"I am appealing to all of you to remain calm," he said. "We are
determined to ensure that peace is restored."
Residents said troubles began early Thursday in Paynesville and spread west to
an Atlantic Ocean port in the capital.
Sporadic gunshots echoed throughout the morning in Paynesville, as mobs hurled
rocks and stones at each other.
Several homes were burnt. At least three men also were injured — one stabbed in
the head, one bludgeoned in the face, and one shot shot
in the leg who was carried to safety by two friends.
Some residents said five people had been killed in the violence. The claims
could not be verified independently, and government officials could not be
reached for comment.
Violence had also reportedly spread to Kakata, 55
kilometers (35 miles) north of the capital, where two mosques were destroyed,
said a local journalist who visited the site.
Mobs attempted to destroy a third mosque, but were stopped by peacekeeping
troops deployed in the town, he said on condition of anonymity.
The U.N. police commander in Liberia, Mark Kroeker,
said U.N. troops had rescued several people from angry mobs in Monrovia.
"Several houses were destroyed, numerous citizens were injured," Kroeker said on a U.N. radio station in the capital.
"We have had to extract numerous people from various situations and rescue
them from mobs during the night."
He did not say any churches or mosques were burned. But religious leaders took
to the airwaves to appeal for calm.
Liberia is struggling to recover from an era of fighting that began in 1989 and
claimed at least 150,000 lives.
A three-year rebel war ended last year. With insurgents shelling the capital,
President Charles Taylor agreed to go into exile in Nigeria, clearing the way
for a transitional government that gave top rebel officials ministerial posts.
A 15,000-strong U.N. peace force is now stationed in the West African nation to
provide security. The new government is to hold elections in October 2005.
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