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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Besieged Liberians vent anger at US

By Paul Welsh
BBC correspondent in Monrovia

As West African politicians meet to consider sending peacekeeping troops into Liberia, the people of Monrovia count the devastating toll of renewed fighting between rebels and government forces.

A crowd gathers around the bodies of people killed by mortar shells near the US embassy
People dumped bodies outside the US embassy in fury at America

The streets were packed with people taking advantage of a 12-hour lull in the mortar bombardment of the capital city.

These were people who had been in hiding from the battle for two days and who are now looking for water, food and fresh air.

The bombardment began suddenly - thousands of people fled for cover.

Along with hundreds of others who had been caught in the open, we pushed our way through the gateway of the walled compound around the United Nations building. The mortars rained down for an hour.

These people are now desperate for international help.

They simply cannot understand why nobody is sending peacekeepers here. The latest events have done the Americans no favours.

They can't just come over and only protect the embassy without protecting us
A Liberian criticises the US

These people used to speak fondly of, what they called, big brother - they don't anymore.

America had flown in reinforcements shortly before the bombardment began. They came to guard the embassy.

They will not intervene in the battle for Monrovia. They won't protect civilians.

"This is strictly to make sure that the embassy compound stays secure and we're providing the forces necessary to do that," says an American official.

Distraught residents

America has said it is considering sending peacekeeping troops if others come first. This was what Liberians were saying before the bombardment began.

"They can't just come over and only protect the embassy without protecting us. It means that they don't have interest in us - nothing. People are dying," said one Liberian.

"They are not good with Liberians, they aren't good friends to us. They are looking at Liberians dying and making fun of it."

Click below to see a map of the surrounding region

"They only care about their own embassy," says another Liberian. "At least let them try and help us, let them try to come to our rescue us otherwise we are dying."

A distraught woman screams and beats the gates of the embassy with her fists as others lay some of the bodies in front of the building in protest at the lack of help from the Americans.

This was the message after the mortars killed at least 60 people in an hour.

The soldiers watched from behind their thick bullet mortar-proof glass.

West African generals and politicians begin meeting later in Senegal to try to work out how and when to send peacekeeping troops here.

The executive secretary of the organisation of West African states (Ecowas) tells me they need to work quickly, they need to get here in the next few days and that ideally they won't have to fight their way in.

The BBC's Paul Welsh
"The battle for Monrovia is heavy and deadly"

In pictures: Monrovia's mortar attack
21 Jul 03  |  Photo Gallery

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