MONROVIA, LIBERIA, MAY 30 -- Masked Liberian soldiers attacked refugees in a U.N. compound today, killing at least one person and kidnapping up to 40 amid growing chaos in this war-torn West African nation, according to witnesses.

The pre-dawn assault against refugees fleeing reprisal attacks from government forces came as rebels fighting President Samuel Doe moved to within 20 miles of Monrovia, the capital. There were unconfirmed reports that the country's only international airport, Robertsfield, about 40 miles south of the city, had been closed because of the rebel offensive.

{Doe said the soldiers who attacked the compound were not acting on his orders, the Associated Press reported. "They are doing it on their own, and I am going to deal with them drastically," he said. A government statement said the soldiers would be arrested within 24 hours and that troops found harassing civilians would be executed.}

The United Nations protested the incident and withdrew its remaining personnel from the country. In Banjul, Gambia, meanwhile, leaders of the 16-member Economic Community of West African States called for an immediate cease-fire and elections in Liberia.

Witnesses, including two U.N. guards, Jerry Samu and Gwagee Begweh, said 10 soldiers attacked the U.N. Development Program camp on the outskirts of Monrovia and that three leaped the locked gate and began beating women and children, forcing about 50 to strip.

Samu said he was stabbed in the back with a bayonet, and Begweh said he was one of eight people driven in a truck to a remote spot. He said he and the others were told to stand in line but that he managed to flee. Later, he said, heard automatic gunfire. "They {the soldiers} told me I'm one of those who's been keeping the rebels here," Begweh said.

Most of the refugees who took shelter in the U.N. compound were believed to be members of the Gio tribe. They feared reprisal from troops and Doe supporters because rebel leader Charles Taylor is a Gio.

In New York, a U.N. spokesman said the masked soldiers "bayoneted a guard and shot two others -- killing one and wounding the other. The soldiers then began beating men, women and children indiscriminately, causing many to flee. The soldiers then forced 30 to 40 of them into nearby army vehicles and drove off."

Taylor blamed Doe and troops of his presidential guard for the attack. In a telephone interview with Cable News Network from Buchanan, a port 60 miles south of Monrovia, Taylor called on Doe to resign. "We're advancing on the capital, and we hope to have the situation under control very shortly," Taylor said.

Doe told terrified Gio and Mano tribespeople at the U.N. compound that they could seek refuge at the presidential mansion. "I will send cars here to get everybody from here and take you to the mansion," Doe said.

The warfare began five months ago when Taylor's rebel forces, composed chiefly of Liberian exiles disaffected by Doe's often harsh rule, invaded the country from neighboring Ivory Coast.