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Marines Land in Liberia to Guard Embassy

Africa: Fresh forces replace U.S. paratroopers at U.S. diplomatic post in nation torn by civil war. Evacuations continue.

April 21, 1996| From Associated Press

MONROVIA, Liberia — Helicopters buzzed the city Saturday, dropping off U.S. Marines to secure the American Embassy while scores of foreigners trapped in factional fighting were ferried to safety.

Four Navy ships and a supply vessel appeared off the Liberian coast before dawn, and by 7 a.m. helicopters roared low over the capital.

The Marines are replacing U.S. paratroopers--members of Special Operations forces based in Europe--who have been guarding the U.S. Embassy for the past week.

Of the 1,500 Marines, only about 200 are expected to be on the ground in the U.S. Embassy. The others will remain aboard ship a few miles out to sea.

Evacuations that have carried more than 2,000 people to safety in neighboring Sierra Leone or Senegal continued Saturday as 78 foreigners, mostly Lebanese and Egyptians trapped for nearly two weeks in a besieged army compound, left in American helicopters.

As African peacekeeping tanks rolled through Monrovia on Saturday morning as part of a new truce, drunken thugs in stolen relief agency vehicles scavenged through the remains of bullet-pocked buildings.

Some guns were still blasting and grenades were still being launched, but most of the firing appeared to be posturing by young men reluctant to give up the streets.

A truce reached Friday between warlord Roosevelt Johnson and rival Charles Taylor appeared to be holding.

The nearly two-week flare-up of Liberia's six-year civil war left 60,000 people homeless and ravaged the seaside city. Dozens of bloated bodies litter the streets, food and medicine are in short supply, and health officials say that squalid conditions have led to at least 110 cholera deaths.

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