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U.S. Forces Evacuate Americans, Others from Liberia

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 15, 1996 – U.S. service members are evacuating American and third country nationals from Liberia, Pentagon officials said.

On April 6, civil war broke out in the western African country. U.S. European Command sent in a five-man assessment team to evaluate how to get Americans out. The result was Joint Task Force Assured Response and the order from Washington to begin noncombatant evacuation.

About 20 U.S. Navy Seals went in to beef up the Marine Corps security detail at the embassy. U.S. Air Force MH-53 helicopters began ferrying people April 9 to Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone, northwest of Liberia.

U.S. troops from RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom; Ramstein Air Base, Germany; Boeblingen, Germany; and Vicenza, Italy, set up a support base at Freetown, according to a DoD spokesman. From there, evacuees boarded C-130s for flights to Dakar, Senegal, where U.S. forces set up a temporary safe haven.

Many evacuees are gathered at the walled U.S. embassy in Monrovia, Liberia's capital. Others are trapped by rival factions in other areas of the city. U.S. troops are escorting those trapped to safety in the embassy.

DoD officials confirmed U.S. special forces drove off a group of Liberians attempting to break into the U.S. Embassy.

Daytime air evacuations from the embassy in Monrovia were halted after two incidents in which four rocket-propelled grenades were fired causing two inbound helicopters to turn back, the spokesman said. Air evacuations from the embassy resumed after dark, he said.

By April 11, about 90 Americans and about 400 third country nationals on 19 U.S. flights had voluntarily left the city swept by violence and looting.

The evacuation was labeled an "authorized departure," the spokesman said, which means American citizens who want to leave are authorized evacuation at government expense. An "ordered departure," the spokesman said, is when all Americans are ordered to leave.

No Americans had been injured or held against their will as of April 11, according to the spokesman.

Additional helicopters were being sent to the West African city from the states. As a further precaution, ships from the amphibious ready group in the Mediterranean were ordered to the area and were expected to arrive in about 10 days, the spokesman said.

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