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Angola Admits Mistakenly Bombing School, Killing 89 Children

June 11, 1994

LUANDA, Angola (AP) _ An Angolan air force fighter plane mistook a government grade school for a rebel base and bombed it, killing 89 children, the military acknowledged Friday.

The pilot destroyed the school Tuesday when he strayed from a bombing raid in rebel territory to the government-held city of Waka Kungo in central Angola, Chief of Staff Joao de Matos said.

The bombs hit during classes, when the school was full of children 8 to 15 years old, said a government military source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

De Matos said in a statement that the pilot, who was not identified, lost his bearings when the navigating equipment failed in his MiG-21 and strong winds blowing over the dusty plains obscured the ground.

The intended target - rebel troops dug in less than 30 miles from Waka Kungo - claimed that at least 150 people were killed and 250 wounded in the air strike, rebel underground radio reported.

Despite peace talks between the government and the rebel National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, or UNITA, recent offensives by both sides have taken a heavy toll among civilians trapped in the targeted cities.

Red Cross official Tony Burgener warned in Geneva on Friday that thousands of trapped civilians could starve to death unless aid flights are resumed.

Food supplies to major Angolan towns were suspended two weeks ago when renewed fighting broke out. Food and medicine stocks were reported running out.

More than 500,000 Angolans have died since civil war erupted on the eve of independence from Portugal in 1975. The government and UNITA signed a peace accord in May 1991, but war resumed 18 months later.

UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi ignited the latest round of warfare after he accused the government of defrauding the rebels in Angola’s first democratic elections and called his guerrillas back to arms.

The rebels were reported advancing toward the encircled, government-held city of Malanje, 215 miles southeast of the capital, Luanda, while government ground and air forces threatened UNITA’s central highlands base in Huambo.

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