Soldiers led by a feared commander from the defeated government army tried to seize the presidential mansion Thursday, but an African intervention force said it foiled the coup attempt.
Some of the attackers, who belonged to the former army of assassinated dictator Samuel Doe, remained holed up in the building in Monrovia, the oceanside capital of the West African nation.The fighting came just three days after the three main warring factions signed a U.N.-approved pact to end the nearly 5-year-old civil war.
The accord has caused an uproar in Monrovia, particularly its provision for replacing a civilian-dominated interim government with a council of warlords.
Heavy gunfire erupted about 4 a.m. at Barclay Training Center, the army barracks near the mansion that houses the government executive offices.
Soldiers from an eight-nation African army led by Nigeria intervened.
"A few elements (of the attackers) are still holed up in the Executive Mansion . . . but it has been cordoned off by our troops, and quite a number of the soldiers and officers who participated in the shooting have surrendered," Brig. Gen. A.S. Mukhtar, chief of staff of the African multinational army, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
He said elements of the defeated Armed Forces of Liberia had moved in on the mansion, the national radio station and the telecommunications center about 2 a.m.
Monrovia's streets were mostly deserted except for columns of African peacekeepers armed with heavy artillery and loyal units of the Liberian army working with them.
National radio began broadcasting hours late with a message from the African army commander, Maj. Gen. John Inienger, urging dissidents to surrender.
He said the dissidents were led by Charles Julu, a ruthless commander who fled the country after Charles Taylor, a former Doe aide, invaded Liberia from the Ivory Coast on Dec. 24, 1989. Doe was tortured to death by a breakaway faction from Taylor's group.
It was not known when Julu returned to Liberia or what his fate was Thursday.
Taylor's popular rebellion to oust Doe's tribalist dictatorship ballooned into a tribal war that the United Nations estimates has killed more than 150,000 people.
Two of every three of Liberia's 2.3 million people are either displaced inside the country or are refugees in other nations.