Search On for Angola Mine Workers
LUANDA, Angola (AP) _ Troops searched the jungle of northeastern Angola on Tuesday for workers abducted during an attack on a Canadian-owned diamond mine that left at least eight dead and 16 wounded, officials said.
Gunmen raided the mine near Yetwene, a village about 370 miles east of the capital, Luanda, before dawn Sunday, said Gaspar Cardoso, a representative in Angola for the Vancouver-based DiamondWorks Ltd.
The company gave conflicting reports on casualties. Cardoso said 24 employees had been killed, 45 were wounded and 24 abducted. But a DiamondWorks press statement issued in London said there were eight dead, 16 wounded and five abducted.
Cardoso said British geologist Jason Pope, South African metallurgist Douglas Larsen, two Filipinos and 20 Angolan staff were among those abducted.
According to diplomats in Luanda, all the dead were Angolans except for two Britons and a South African.
No ransom demand has been received, Cardoso said.
Jose Dias, a director of the Angolan state diamond company Endiama, which has a stake in the mine, blamed the former rebel movement UNITA for the attack, and said about 150 gunmen took part.
Although DiamondWorks quoted witnesses as saying some of the gunmen wore UNITA uniforms, they said others wore clothing identified with local military and police units.
A U.N.-brokered peace pact signed four years ago ended two decades of civil war in Angola, but lingering hostility between the former foes has prevented its full implementation.
Gangs of armed bandits, mostly demobilized soldiers, roam the countryside of the vast southwest African nation and pillage outlying towns.
A spokesman for the Angolan armed forces said the army was pursuing the attackers but had little hope of catching them.
``It’s going to be very difficult,″ said the spokesman who identified himself only as Brig. Jota. ``It’s thick jungle up there, and normally these groups cross quickly over the border (with Congo),″ he said.
DiamondWorks’ chief executive officer Bruce Walsham was due to arrive in Luanda on Tuesday evening, and was expected to hold talks with officials on securing the release of the abducted men.