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Update No. 96/1 on ICRC activities in Liberia

15-04-1996 Operational Update

 Lead-up  

On Saturday 6 April extreme violence broke out in the Liberian capital of Monrovia following the attempted arrest of Roosevelt Johnson. He and his Krahn supporters fled to the Barclay Training Centre where they were besieged by forces of the opposing factions, the NPFL and the Ulimo Kromah. Fighting spread to Mamba Point, leading to a complete breakdown of law and order and the displacement of up to 20,000 civilians who took refuge in the Graystone compound near the United States'embassy. The peace-keeping forces, ECOMOG, were not observed taking any action to contain the events, although they started carrying out patrols during the weekend of 13 to 14 April. The United States evacuated by air some 2,000 foreigners from the country; while others were able to leave by boat.

 ICRC withdraws its staff  

On Friday 12 April the ICRC decided to withdraw its four remaining expatriates, including a Swedish Red Cross nurse, from Monrovia. The institution was one of the last organizations to remain operational, and eventually fell prey to the wave of looting that swept the Mamba Point area. It became impossible for the ICRC to continue its activities for the victims of the conflict. Before leaving, the ICRC transferred the casualties being treated at the delegation to a hospital outside the town centre. The ICRC expatriates were flown to safety in Dakar.

 Fears for civilians  

In view of the violence holding sway in Monrovia, t he ICRC was forced to recognize that there was no longer any authority with the power or the will to ensure respect for the most basic rules governing conduct in armed conflict. It fears the worst for the city's civilian population and recognizes their growing humanitarian needs.

The ICRC will monitor developments from its regional delegation in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, and its offices in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Conakry and Guéckédou, Guinea, and will maintain contact with the other humanitarian organizations which have been working in Liberia.