Police officer declares Liberian warlord Taylor is on way to Liberia

Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, facing charges of crimes against humanity, was flown back to his homeland Wednesday from Nigeria , where he was captured trying to flee the country.

At the Sierra Leone tribunal where Taylor is wanted on 17 charges of war crimes, officials were preparing for Taylor 's arrival, with Chief Prosecutor Desmond de Silva confident that Taylor would soon be behind bars.

In Liberia , U.N. troop transports could be seen heading to the main airport and De Silva said the 15,000-strong U.N. peace force there would be responsible for transferring Taylor to neighboring Sierra Leone .

Taylor left from Maiduguri , capital of northwestern Borno state, where he was captured Tuesday night trying to slip across the border into Cameroon after leaving his home in exile in southern Nigeria , a senior police official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Taylor was reported missing from the villa where he lived in exile Monday night, just days after President Olusegun Obasanjo reluctantly bowed to pressure to surrender him to face justice.

Nigeria had granted asylum to the fast-talking, U.S.-educated economist under a 2003 agreement that helped end Liberia 's 14-year civil war.

The admission that Taylor had slipped away came an hour before Obasanjo left Nigeria on a presidential jet headed for Washington , where he was scheduled to meet with President Bush on Wednesday.

The White House had suggested the meeting might be canceled if Nigeria 's leader didn't have some answers for President Bush about Taylor 's vanishing act.

Taylor 's disappearance came after Nigeria resisted calls over two days from the United States , human rights organizations and the war tribunal in Sierra Leone for authorities to arrest Taylor , who escaped from a U.S. jail in Boston in 1985, to ensure he would stand trial. There was speculation of collusion by Nigerian security agents and some officials.

All 22 Nigerian police officers responsible for guarding Taylor have been arrested, the Nigerian government said Tuesday.

In Liberia , neither the government nor officials of the 15,000-troop U.N. peacekeeping force would comment. But six white armored personnel carriers were seen driving toward the international airport outside the capital, Monrovia , apparently to stand by should Nigeria immediately fly Taylor there.

Liberia 's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has said that Liberia wants Taylor sent to Sierra Leone to stand trial, not to Liberia , where it is feared his presence could destabilize an already fragile country taking its first steps toward rebuilding since the new leader was installed in January.

Security officials in Liberia said they had arrested several Taylor supporters, allegedly for holding secret meetings to plot how Taylor could avoid standing trial.

Taylor, a one-time warlord and rebel leader, is charged with backing Sierra Leone rebels, including child fighters, who terrorized victims by chopping off body parts. He would be the first African leader to face trial for crimes against humanity.

While the Sierra Leone tribunal's charges refer only to the war there, Taylor also has been accused of starting civil war in Liberia and of harboring al-Qaida suicide bombers who attacked the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, killing more than 200 people.

Obasanjo has consistently resisted calls to surrender Taylor to the war tribunal. But he agreed on Saturday to hand him over to Liberia , acting on a request from President Johnson Sirleaf, reports the AP.


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