MONROVIA, Liberia — Liberian leader Samuel K. Doe narrowly escaped death Monday when would-be assassins poured machine-gun fire into his jeep, the official news agency of the West African republic said Monday.
Reporting on an account that it said Doe gave to his ministers, the agency said that the vehicle rammed into a lamppost but that Doe escaped injury.
It said that Doe accused Col. Moses M. D. Flanzamaton, deputy chief of his personal guard, of masterminding the attack. Flanzamaton fled after the attack early Monday, and security forces were searching for him, the agency said. The number of gunmen involved in the incident was not known.
Two bodyguards traveling with the head of state in the jeep were reported wounded in the attack, which occurred on the grounds of the presidential mansion as they returned from a weekend outing.
Doe, 34, has made many accusations of plots against him since he seized power in a coup in April, 1980, but this appeared to be the first report of an attempt on his life. Doe has promised to restore civilian rule in January, 1986.
According to the news agency, Doe gave this account:
He was driving a jeep with two of his bodyguards as passengers, returning from a guesthouse at Paynesville about four miles from the presidential mansion.
As he reached the second gate of the mansion grounds, a group opened fire with at least one .50-caliber machine gun. More than one attacker appeared to be involved because there were bullet holes on both sides of the jeep.
30 Rounds Fired
About 30 rounds were fired. Some of the bullets punctured a tire of the jeep, and Doe brought the vehicle to a stop by crashing it into a lamppost. He was not injured, although bullets ripped into the seats and shattered the windows of the vehicle.
There were unconfirmed reports that one bullet pierced Doe's cap.
The two wounded bodyguards were identified as Maj. Roosevelt Clarke and Lt. Col. Richard Tarpeh. Clarke was reported in critical condition, but the news agency said Tarpeh was hit in the arm and was expected to be released soon.
It said Doe visited the two men in the hospital later Monday.
Coup in 1980
Liberia was founded in 1847 by freed American slaves. Doe, an indigenous Liberian, was an army master sergeant in 1980 when he overthrew the government led by descendants of those slaves and had its leaders shot on a Monrovia beach.
Doe has promised to restore civilian rule after elections are held this fall. However, he has outlawed one of the leading opposition parties, the United People's Party, led by former Foreign Minister Gabriel Matthews.
Last year, Doe had a dispute with the United States, accusing it of interfering in Liberia's internal affairs by making aid contingent upon a swifter return to democracy.