MONROVIA, LIBERIA, JULY 30 -- This story, filed by the Associated Press, is in part a pool report by correspondents in Liberia.

Loyalist soldiers of President Samuel Doe burst into a Lutheran church compound today and massacred at least 600 civilian refugees, including many children, witnesses said.

However, State Department officials in Washington said late today that their information, based on reports from U.S. Embassy staff still in Monrovia, indicates about 200 had been killed by Liberian troops. The White House condemned the "senseless act of terror" but said there were no plans to send in troops. {Details on Page A18.}

A spokesman for Doe denied the allegations. In a telephone call to the British Broadcasting Corp. in London, the spokesman said rebels wearing government uniforms killed the civilians in the early morning raid.

People who said they escaped the attack alleged that about 30 soldiers blasted the church door down with machine guns and opened fire on about 2,000 people from the Gio and Mano tribes who had taken refuge there.

Government troops have killed hundreds of Gios and Manos, whose tribes have supported the rebels seeking to overthrow Doe and speak a different language than Doe's loyalists. Most of Doe's troops are from his Krahn tribe and the Mandingo tribe.

Witnesses said most victims were children and women, some with babies strapped to their backs and others cowering in corners. They had been seeking refuge from the civil war, which began in late December when rebels invaded from neighboring Ivory Coast in a bid to oust Doe.

The rebels accuse Doe, in power since 1980, of rights abuses and corruption.

Witnesses said soldiers broke into the church compound at about 2 a.m. when the refugees were asleep. There was no telephone, so victims had no way of calling for help.

Bodies of some people apparently killed while trying to flee were hanging from window frames of the church building, said one person who visited the camp. "I saw dead bodies all around," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Other witnesses who refused to give their names said they saw women with their heads smashed open or blown to pieces by bullets.

Thousands of refugees fleeing the civil war are crowded into refugee camps in the capital. Their numbers have swelled recently as rebel troops have stormed the city.

The survivors said that after the soldiers had riddled the refugees on the ground floor with bullets they went upstairs and attacked a second group, of 1,000, sleeping there.

"We thought they had come to ask us questions. Then they started killing, and everyone began screaming and trying to hide," said one man who said he hid on the roof of the church.

The soldiers were from Doe's Krahn tribe, said the survivors.

The floor of the church was covered with bloodstains. Bodies were huddled under the pews where people tried to hide and lay draped across the altar. More bodies were huddled in the corner.

"My people, help me. My son, where is my son? I beg you, don't leave me," pleaded an injured woman on the church steps. A man nearby, his neck slashed, called out for water.

The compound was filled with the bodies brought outside after the massacre. People passing the church appeared numb at the sight of rows of corpses.

People who survived the attack were seen this afternoon being rounded up by government soldiers. The soldiers ordered survivors away from the building and shot into the air to make them move, said the witnesses.

Refugees had sought protection at the church in late May after government soldiers attacked them at U.N. headquarters in Monrovia. The soldiers killed an unarmed security guard and abducted about 30 male civilians. Many of their bodies were later discovered outside the capital.

U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar withdrew all U.N. staff from Liberia in protest, halting an emergency program to aid war refugees. Perez de Cuellar said in New York that he reacted "with horror and dismay" to today's massacre.

The war has grown to include tribal warfare, with both the government and rebels accusing the other of civilian slayings.

The government of neighboring Guinea has accused fighters of rebel leader Charles Taylor of crossing into its territory and slaughtering Krahns and Mandingos.

Doe, who has repeatedly said he will die before leaving Monrovia, remained holed up in his heavily fortified presidential mansion.