The greatest threat to public safety in Monrovia's recent history was the civil war that raged throughout the country between 1990 and 1997, bringing lawlessness and destruction to this formerly peaceful capital. By 1996 the city lay in ruins while armed gangs employed by rival warlords roamed the streets killing, raping, and looting. Thousands fled the fighting in the capital, and at least 100 peacekeepers lost their lives while trying to restore security to the city and its environs. A U.S. airlift evacuated more than 2,300 people from Monrovia, including 461 American citizens, and nearly the entire U.S. embassy staff left the city. Although conditions improved substantially following the 1996 peace agreement and the 1997 elections, the threat of violence remained, especially once ECOMOG forces had been withdrawn from the country.