Bodies piled up across Liberia's capital as the latest truce collapsed in a frenzy of bullets and shelling. Three of the dead were killed by U.S. Marines as they ran toward the American Embassy firing their guns.
Twelve days after warlords agreed to a cease-fire, the streets of Monrovia were in the hands of gunmen again Wednesday. The fighting is the fiercest since battles first broke out April 6.Fighting Wednesday was concentrated around a besieged military training camp, whose floors were bathed in blood after dozens of victims were carried in or dragged themselves through the door.
On Wednesday, rocket-propelled grenades smashed into the grounds of the camp as doctors worked, bringing wails of fear and pain from civilians who thrashed on the floors or on flimsy stretchers.
Fighting remained heavy at the training camp Wednesday. Warlord Roosevelt Johnson has been holed up inside with hundreds of armed supporters since April 6 in an attempt to evade arrest on murder charges for clashes in March.
The government troops trying to arrest him include fighters loyal to rival warlords Charles Taylor and Alhaji Kromah, members of a six-man ruling council made up of faction leaders and civilians.
All sides had agreed April 19 to a truce negotiated at the American Embassy, but fighting reignited Monday as government leaders attempted to meet at government headquarters.
George Moose, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, had intended to hold talks at the American Embassy on Tuesday with government, peacekeeping and faction leaders. But mortars, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades forced him to cancel the meetings.
The executive mansion is near the military camp, and Taylor and Kromah accused Johnson's men of attacking them from there.
Moose blamed Taylor for the renewed fighting and warned of a "major catastrophe" if it continued.
U.S. troops were drawn into the violence for the first time Tuesday when they fired on gunmen shooting toward the embassy, which is guarded by about 230 Marines.