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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shelling Batters Monrovia As Refugees Flee Carnage

MONROVIA, Liberia -- Charles Taylor had vowed the battle for a military barracks held by his enemies would end in victory for his troops by the weekend.


But rebel supporters of his archrival Roosevelt Johnson still held on Sunday as Taylor's young fighters resumed their shelling of the Barclay Training Center.


Troops loyal to both sides also continued their drive for the two main bridges into the city, with Taylor's troops winning the upper hand by Sunday.


The clashes shattered hopes that the evacuation of Johnson from the country on Friday would spur moves toward ending the month of bloodshed which has destroyed the capital and taken hundreds of lives.


Tens of thousands of Liberians fled the city over the weekend, heading for rural areas already plagued by disease and serious shortages of food and medicine. Others rushed to board ships that were leaving Monrovia and charging high prices for passage out of embattled capital. At least 2,000 Liberians clambered on board the Nigerian freighter Bulk Challenger Sunday morning, some trying to climb up the side of the ship as it sailed out of port.


Some of those who purchased $75 tickets for the five-day trip to Ghana did not get on board after their luggage was loaded and fist fights broke out at the port.


As the ship inched away from the devastated capital, the Liberians stood on deck, singing their national anthem and waving farewell to those left behind.


Taylor, head of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia and member of the ruling, six-man Council of State, has refused to join Johnson in Accra, Ghana, for talks beginning Wednesday on ending Liberia's six-year civil war.


"I welcome the process to have General Johnson evacuated and hope that the electoral process will go on as planned in August this year," Taylor said Saturday.


Taylor recently aligned his forces with warlord Alhaji Kromah, once a bitter rival. Both men sit on Liberia's governing council, which was seated Sept. 1 after international mediators brokered country's 13th peace accord in six years of civil war.


The council was designed to prepare Liberia for elections by August. Taylor said the council's civilian chairman, Wilton Sankawulo, would represent Liberia at the peace talks.


Johnson, a former Cabinet minister, was fired by the government and charged with murder in connection with clashes in March that violated an August 1995 peace accord.


His refusal to surrender sparked fighting that quickly spread into a city-wide spree of looting, shelling and gunfire. The U.S. military began evacuating foreigners April 10, and by Saturday about 2,135 people had been flown to neighboring countries.