MONROVIA, Liberia — Rebel leader Prince Johnson said Saturday that he is ordering the arrest of all foreigners in Monrovia in the hope of provoking international intervention in the nation's bloody civil war.
Johnson, whose troops have occupied much of the city in their battle to oust President Samuel K. Doe, told reporters that the roundup will begin Monday and will first single out American, British, Lebanese and Indian civilians.
Four U.S. warships containing 4,000 Marines have been stationed off the Liberian coast for weeks, but Washington repeatedly has ruled out intervening. The forces could presumably evacuate the few hundred remaining Americans.
"I have decided to give a rigid order to arrest all foreign nationals," Johnson told reporters at his field headquarters. Those arrested will be held at a secret location, he said.
"They will not be harmed," Johnson promised.
At least 2,000 foreigners, mostly Lebanese and Indian traders, still live in the embattled capital. Besides the Americans, the Westerners include a few dozen Britons.
It was not clear whether Johnson's order for the arrest of foreigners includes the many diplomats who remain in Monrovia, including U.S. Ambassador Peter de Vos and British Ambassador Michael Gore.
Fighting has shifted considerably throughout the capital in recent days, and it was unclear whether foreigners in sections now under Johnson's control could move freely to areas controlled by Doe's troops.
A Lebanese trader on Saturday became the first foreigner reported killed in the fighting, which began as an insurgency in December but which has since turned into vicious tribal war including massacres and torture.
Mohammed Farhat, who had lived in the Liberian capital for more than 15 years, was reportedly shot and killed in front of his wife and four children when he tried to stop Doe's troops from looting his furniture store.