Disguised in flowing robes, the leader of a failed coup sauntered past an African army roadblock Friday. But he was mobbed by people who recognized him as a feared army commander notorious for atrocities.
Gen. Charles Julue seized the presidential mansion Thursday in Monrovia, but military sources said he apparently escaped from it before the eight-nation African intervention force pounded it with shells from tanks and gunboats.After being recognized by the crowd, Julue was handed over to African army officers who said they still were hunting for about 100 rebel soldiers who helped stage the failed coup attempt.
Thursday's bold attack was only the latest of this West African nation's woes, beset by civil war for almost five years.
The United Nations and Nigeria, which provides two-thirds of the African peacekeepers, have warned they will withdraw unless a peace accord signed this week by Liberia's three main warring factions is honored.
That accord, approved by the United Nations, caused an uproar in Monrovia because it would replace a civilian-dominated interim government with a council of warlords.
Numerous peace pacts have collapsed since 1989 as the fighting has spread to encompass six warring factions, half of them divided internally. At least 150,000 people have died in the war, and two-thirds of Liberia's 2.3 million people are displaced inside the country or refugees in other nations.
Julue's coup bid heralded the advent of yet another faction.
The rebels had infiltrated the mansion, the national radio station and the telecommunications center early Thursday, but managed to hold on only to the seaside mansion.
Gen. A.S. Mukhtar, chief of staff of the eight-nation African army, said they decided to attack after lengthy negotiations failed.
The first shell fired from a gunboat overshot the mansion and hit an open-air bar outside the national Red Cross office, killing one civilian and wounding another.