MONROVIA, LIBERIA, AUG. 4 -- This story, transmitted by the Associated Press, is a pool report by foreign correspondents in Liberia.
Prince Johnson, leader of a rebel group seeking to topple Liberia's rulers, said today he is ordering the arrest of all foreigners in Monrovia in hope of provoking international intervention in the nation's bloody civil war.
Johnson, whose troops have occupied much of the city in their battle to oust President Samuel Doe, told reporters the roundup would begin Monday and would initially target American, British, Lebanese and Indian civilians.
Four U.S. warships, with 4,000 Marines, have been stationed off the Liberian coast for weeks, but Washington repeatedly has ruled out intervening. The forces could presumably evacuate the few hundred Americans remaining in Liberia.
Fighting has shifted considerably throughout the capital in recent days, and it was unclear whether foreigners in sections now under Johnson's control could move freely to areas controlled by Doe's troops.
A Lebanese trader today became the first foreigner reported killed in the fighting, which began as an insurgency in December but has since turned into a tribal war including massacres and torture.
Mohamed Farhat, who had lived in the Liberian capital for more than 15 years, was reportedly shot and killed in front of his wife and four children when he tried to stop Doe's troops from looting his furniture store.
Johnson himself shot and killed a Liberian wearing a Red Cross emblem Friday, claiming the man was selling rice that was supposed to be free, according to a Western journalist who saw the shooting.
"I want the world to know how we deal with profiteers," Johnson said before firing a burst from his AK-47 assault rifle. Another detained relief worker, still handcuffed to the victim, said rice vouchers were being sold to prevent a stampede.
The victim, whose name was not known, was arrested with Jacques Monthouroy, a Frenchman working for the U.S. Catholic Relief Services. Monthouroy was released after the U.S. Embassy vouched for him. The killing has stopped rice distribution in Monrovia.
The fighting in the civil war is centered in Monrovia, where forces loyal to Johnson are trying to topple Doe, whose troops were defending Doe's fortified mansion. Forces loyal to a rival rebel leader, Charles Taylor, had been stopped by Doe's troops east of the capital.
At least 2,000 foreigners, mostly Lebanese and Indian traders, still live in the embattled capital. Besides the Americans, the Westerners include a few dozen Britons.
It was not clear whether Johnson's order applied to diplomats remaining in Monrovia, including U.S. Ambassador-designate Peter de Vos.
"I have decided to give a rigid order to arrest all foreign nationals," Johnson told reporters at his field headquarters in the capital's Bushrod Island. Those arrested would be held at a secret location, he said. "They will not be harmed," Johnson promised. "I hope this will create an international incident, so foreign troops can come in to intervene."
Nigerian and other foreign troops would be welcome in Liberia as part of an international force, he said, "but not on their own initiative." West African leaders are scheduled to discuss sending a joint flotilla to enforce peace in Liberia at a summit in Banjul, Gambia, on Monday, according to Nigerian government sources in Lagos.
Three Nigerian naval ships, including one armed with missiles and heavy guns, came to Monrovia to evacuate Nigerians in the capital but were turned away by Johnson's men. The rebels are assumed to be hostile to Nigeria because its president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, reputedly is a friend of Doe.
The Nigerian sources in Lagos said the ships, now in Freetown, capital of neighboring Sierra Leone, could form the core of a West African task force that would include ships from Guinea and Sierra Leone.
As Johnson spoke to reporters, he received word his forces were being attacked by Taylor's rebels. Johnson said he had no details about the attack, which came two days after Taylor vowed to defeat Johnson before assaulting Doe's mansion.