Exiled Liberian warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor has disappeared from his residence in southern Nigeria, officials say.  Nigeria recently said it would allow Liberian authorities to take charge of Taylor, who is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Officials from Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo's office say accused war-crimes suspect Charles Taylor disappeared from his villa in the southern Nigerian city of Calabar sometime Monday.

Presidential spokeswoman Remi Oyo said all the members of Taylor's Nigerian security detail have been arrested.  She said Nigeria will set up an investigation committee to look into what happened.

The whereabouts of the former Liberian president, who was granted asylum in Nigeria in 2003 as part of a deal aimed at ending the country's civil war, have been unclear since President Olusegun Obasanjo said Saturday he would hand him over to Liberia.

For several days, some close to Taylor have said he was missing from his riverside home.

K.A. Paul helped arrange Taylor's original agreement with Nigeria and spoke to VOA from Ethiopia where he was attempting to bargain a new asylum deal.

"My people went and saw.  They were surprised to see him missing," Paul says. "I do not know whether he is out of the country, in Cameroon.  We have discussed various options.  Or he ran away to avoid all this crisis."

Human-rights groups, including U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, had warned Nigeria needed to step up security to prevent Taylor from fleeing.

His disappearance comes on the eve of a trip by President Obasanjo to Washington, where the Nigerian leader is due to meet with President Bush.  The United States earlier this week urged Nigeria to take steps to ensure Taylor would face trial.

Before leading his brutal rebel campaign against then-President Samuel Doe in the 1990s, he had once escaped from a prison in the United States.

Taylor is wanted by the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone for his role in that country's bloody civil war.  He faces 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for backing a rebel group notorious for its cruelty.