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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Tuesday 25 May 2004

LIBERIA: Member of top US military delegation murdered

MONROVIA, 25 May 2004 (IRIN) - A member of the United States Government 34-man military delegation in Liberia to help set up a new national army, has been murdered at the Mamba Point Hotel in the diplomatic enclave of the Liberian capital, Monrovia, just yards away from the official residence of the US ambassador.

Liberia's defence ministry spokesman Moizou Kromah told reporters on Tuesday that the incident occurred during the early hours of Monday morning in a room at the Mamba Point Hotel where the deceased and the rest of the US delegation were lodging. No official motive has been given by authorities.

The identity of the murdered man has not been established, but the Liberian government has confirmed that the man was a civilian member of the US team.

"We have learnt that the individual murdered in cold blood was one of the four civilians on the delegation...the identity of the deceased will be withheld pending the conclusion of an investigation," Kromah disclosed.

He said the team, which arrived in Monrovia on 19 May, composed of 30 senior military officers of US Military Command and four civilians, was on an assessment mission to assist in the creation of a new Liberian army following 14 years of bloody civil war, brought to an end in August.

Sources close to the Liberian state security told IRIN on Tuesday that the deceased was stabbed to death in his hotel room by an unknown murderer or murderers who entered via a ceiling cavity shared with an adjoining room. Cash and other valuables were missing from the room, they said.

"Because of the embarrassing nature of such a murder of a US citizen in Liberia, the transitional government chairman Gyude Bryant has ordered all of the state security including the police, national bureau of investigation, national security agency [Liberia's intelligence bureau] to investigate the killing and arrest the culprits," one of the sources said.

Expatriates and western visitors lodge at the Mamba Point Hotel, because of its proximity to the US and European Union embassies as well as the offices of various UN agencies.

Plain cloths Liberian security officers have tightened security at the hotel, replacing the private security agents who operated before the murder to clients' satisfaction.

Frequent visitors to the Mamba Point Hotel, which operated throughout the Liberian civil war, chose the hotel as it usually had electricity and water, a luxury in Monrovia and was located near the sea - an emergency exit in case of troubles.

Shock and anger gripped residents of the capital, Monrovia as news of the murder spread.

"No body should overlook this killing, because it has a propensity to indicate to the international community that Liberia is still not safe," said Daniel Johnson, a student of international relations.

Liberian police officers in collaboration with armed UN police have stepped up patrols in and around the city.

A senior police officer said: "We will search for those responsible and bring them to justice."


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