MONROVIA, Liberia – U.S. military helicopters swept in to Liberia's embattled capital Wednesday, bringing in U.S. Marine reinforcements and ferrying out 18 foreign evacuees.
The 20 Marines completed a 41-member team deployed to boost security at the U.S. Embassy, which has remained staffed throughout two months of rebel offensives launched to take Monrovia and drive out President Charles Taylor (search).
The first half of the team arrived Monday, just before a furious mortar barrage struck the city as rebels fought an all-out battle with government troops. One mortar shell hit a building in the embassy compound, and another struck a compound across the street where thousands of Liberians had taken shelter, killing 25.
The fighting held up deployment of the rest of the force.
On Wednesday, three helicopters with Marines landed by midafternoon, whirring in as a thick fog bank moved in over the rain-soaked city. Twenty heavily armed Marines in full body armor jumped out.
Emptied of U.S. Marines, Wednesday's helicopters left again with 18 aid workers and journalists. Most evacuees were Americans, with a few Europeans.
A number of Americans have been holed up at the sprawling embassy compound during recent days of heavy fighting. The helicopters that brought the Marines on Monday evacuated 23 aid workers and foreign journalists.
The United States has yet to order a full-scale evacuation of U.S. Embassy staffers and other remaining Americans in Monrovia (search).
Separately, French special forces on Wednesday helped evacuate a French news photographer shot and wounded in fighting Saturday.
Twenty-seven French special forces members guarded Patrick Robert as a plane brought in by the French military flew him from Liberia's main airport. The photographer had been undergoing treatment at a Red Cross (search) trauma center.