MAIDUGURI, Nigeria: Fugitive former Liberian President Charles Taylor was captured on Nigeria's border with Cameroon yesterday, easing Nigeria's embarrassment at his escape from imminent extradition.
President Olusegun Obasanjo, currently on a visit to Washington which has been pressing for the former warlord to stand trial for war crimes, ordered that he be immediately repatriated to Liberia, Information Minister Frank Nweke said.
The dramatic dawn arrest at a remote border crossing in Nigeria's arid northeast was the latest twist in a saga which has divided the two West African nations and nearly derailed Obasanjo's meeting with US President George W. Bush.
"He was arrested in Borno state, at the Cameroon border, in the early hours of this morning," said police spokesman Haz Iwendi.
The 58-year-old former warlord was seized more than 1,500 kilometres from Calabar, where he had been living in exile since 2003 until his disappearance on Monday night.
Taylor was travelling in a jeep with diplomatic plates with a woman and boy, and a large amount of money in dollars in a trunk, local officials said.
He was escorted to a military barracks in the Borno state capital Maiduguri and then to the airport where a Nigerian presidential jet was waiting. Taylor was seen dressed in a white safari suit, walk onto the runway surrounded by about 20 soldiers.
The plane later took off from Maiduguri. A security official said it would take Taylor direct to Liberia's capital Monrovia.
UN peacekeepers in Liberia prepared to arrest Taylor at Monrovia's Roberts International Airport and deliver him to a Sierra Leone war crimes court.
The United States has been pressing for Taylor to stand trial in the special UN-backed court in Sierra Leone. Nigeria and Liberia have been at odds over how to handle the case since Liberia's newly-elected president asked for him to be handed over in early March.
"President Obasanjo has ordered the immediate repatriation of Charles Taylor to Liberia ... to help the government of Liberia which had requested custody of the former president," Nweke, the information minister, said in a statement.
Taylor went into exile as part of a deal to end 14 years of civil war in Liberia that spilled over into nearby states. In Sierra Leone, he is accused of supporting rebels notorious for hacking off the limbs of civilians in exchange for diamonds to finance the Liberian conflict. An estimated 300,000 died in the wars that spawned a generation of child soldiers.
Nigeria had resisted sending Taylor to Sierra Leone, arguing that the terms of his asylum stated that he could only be returned to Liberia.
Taylor's disappearance from his residence caused an international outcry. Some US congressmen urged Bush to cancel the meeting with Obasanjo.
Source: China Daily