Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Archbishop Flees Liberia, Fears Mass Hunger 12,000 Peacekeepers Fan out on Besieged Streets

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Archbishop Flees Liberia, Fears Mass Hunger 12,000 Peacekeepers Fan out on Besieged Streets

Article excerpt

Through a week of slaughter and chaos, Liberia's Roman Catholic bishop kept his optimism, praying that Monrovia would stabilize and refusing to abandon his people.

But after the main Catholic church was looted, and he himself was robbed, even Archbishop Michael Francis gave up and fled the ruined city on Sunday with his mother.

"In the next two weeks, there could be a mass starvation," he said, before boarding one of the U.S. helicopters that have now ferried 1,642 foreigners out of the capital to neighboring Sierre Leone. Meanwhile, about 12,000 West African peacekeepers - most of them Nigerians - fanned out timidly to try to take back the streets from the seven warring factions that have nearly destroyed the capital. Gabriel Anyankpele, chief of staff for the peacekeepers, said they hoped to end the siege of a military barracks where supporters of rebel leader Roosevelt Johnson were holding 37 peacekeepers hostage. An arrest warrant on murder charges against Johnson last week prompted the new round of fighting. Also Sunday, thousands of hungry, homeless people wandered the streets of Monrovia, searching for food and shelter, while shelling and small-arms fire threatened a flimsy 2-day-old truce. All the shops and office buildings in the capital have been looted and most of them destroyed since fighting started nine days ago. While drugged-out gangs still raced through the streets in stolen vehicles, brandishing AK-47 assault rifles, grenades and machetes, at least they no longer appeared to be menacing civilians now that the shops were picked clean. Terrified Liberians have been left to fend for themselves, as foreigners and even the world's aid groups abandoned the warring West African country. "It has been a bloody nightmare," said Tsukasa Kimoto of the U.N. World Food Program. After 40 hours at sea, he arrived by boat in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Sunday morning with 161 other U.N. workers and foreigners. Most of those on the Hollgen, a ship chartered by the U.N. World Food Program, were Lebanese. Others were U.N. workers and staff members of nongovernmental groups. The United Nations and the Red Cross were forced to withdraw when looters overran their offices. …

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