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Jeff Koinange: The Marines have landed

CNN's Jeff Koinange
CNN's Jeff Koinange

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CNN's Jeff Koinange reports on the arrival of U.S. Marines.
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SPECIAL REPORT
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Interactive: The U.S. and Liberia
Profile: Charles Taylor
Fact Sheet: Liberia

MONROVIA, Liberia (CNN) -- About 200 U.S. troops, most of them Marines, arrived Thursday in Liberia to help West African peacekeepers secure Monrovia's port, which has been stripped clean by looters of aid supplies, furniture, gasoline, vehicles and everything else.

A troops arrived, rebel soldiers handed over the port area to the leader of the West African peacekeeper troops, Brig. Gen Festus Okonkwo.

CNN's Jeff Koinange, on the scene, filed the following report:

KOINANGE: The U.S. troops are officially on the ground here, and behind me stands a column of them who landed just a short while ago, heading toward a nearby hangar to secure that part of the airport.

They arrived as an impressive and imposing presence. First, it was Cobra helicopter gunships hovering over the airport to make sure that it was safe. And then the CH-46 and CH-53 helicopters landed and the Marines poured out.

The U.S. ambassador here said the boots are officially on the ground. Anyone who had any doubts about an American presence, an American show of force on the ground here in Monrovia, well, that's all dispelled right now.

Basically what they're here to do, once they secure that hangar, they're going to assist the West African peacekeepers in any way they want, whether it's logistics, communications -- anything they need, they will assist them.

The situation is pretty fluid and pretty unpredictable because the rebels are about 30 miles east of where I am right now. The group calling themselves the Movement for Democracy in Liberia, or MODEL. They started making a push out of the country's second largest port city of Buchanan, heading this way, actually heading towards this airport.

U.S. forces were consulting on the ground with their West African colleagues to make sure this airport area is secure, to make sure that their troops won't be in any harm or danger of any kind.


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