BREAKING NEWS ~ Wanted war crimes suspect Taylor is missing: Nigeria
BREAKING NEWS ~ Wanted war crimes suspect Taylor is missing: Nigeria

[JURIST] The BBC is reporting a statement by the Nigerian government that wanted war crimes suspect Charles Taylor [JURIST news archive], the former Liberian president indicted by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) [official website] who it said it would turn over to Liberian authorities [JURIST report], is missing from the villa in the south of country where he has been living in exile since 2003. All the members of his security forces have been arrested. BBC News has more.

JURIST received information Monday from former SCSL Chief of Investigations Alan White that Taylor had already left his villa in Calabar [JURIST report] and could be heading to Equatorial Guinea or the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Benjamin Yeaten, former director of Liberia's Special Security Service [Global Security backgrounder] under Taylor, spends time. White suggested Nigeria would blame Taylor's departure on Liberia's failure to arrest him in a timely manner.

1:16 PM ET – A statement released by the Nigeria Office of Public Communications says President Olesegun Obasanjo has set up a five-member Panel of Enquiry to look into the circumstances of Taylor's disappearance.

7:05 PM ET – SCSL Chief Prosecutor Desmond de Silva responded to reports of Taylor's disappearance Tuesday by calling it an "affront to justice", saying that Taylor was a threat to the peace and security of West Africa and urging Nigerian and other leaders to respond immediately and take all necessary steps to bring Taylor to justice. Read de Silva's statement [PDF].

In Washington, the US indicated Tuesday that it regarded the apparent escape of Taylor with what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the "utmost seriousness," with officials suggesting that under the circumstances Wednesday's planned meeting between visiting Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo and President Bush might not go ahead. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday:

It is the responsibility of the Nigerian government to see that [Taylor] is conveyed to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. We expect the government of Nigeria to fulfill this commitment.
BBC News has more.