Cuba Announces Casualties from Angola Conflict
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Cuba, disclosing the human costs of its military involvement in Angola for the first time, said Wednesday that 2,016 Cubans have died in that country since the first forces were sent there 14 years ago.
A spokesman for the Cuban diplomatic mission here, Angel Pino, gave that figure in announcing that the remains of all Cubans who died carrying out international missions in Angola and elsewhere have been returned to Cuba in recent days.
The dead will be honored at a ceremony on Thursday at which President Fidel Castro will participate along with Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Ethiopian Vice President Fisseha Desta.
Pino said 2,289 Cubans, including troops and civilian technical advisers, have died abroad over the years. More than 400,000 have taken part in such missions, mostly in Africa.
Pino said 160 Cubans died in Ethiopia, where thousands of Cuban troops were sent in 1977, two years after Cuba’s involvement in Angola began.
The number of Cuban dead in Angola has been the subject of considerable speculation over the years but Cuba has always regarded the figure as a state secret. Three years ago, Angolan anti-communist rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, whose forces have been fighting the Cuban-backed government for years, put the Cuban death toll at more than 6,000.
Of the 2,289 casualties, Pino said 863 were killed in combat, 595 died of illness and 829 were accident fatalities. The remains of 36 Cubans could not be recovered. Several others disappeared.
The remains were returned to Cuba between Nov. 27 and Dec. 4 and have been sent to their hometowns. Over the years, some families have complained that the remains of relatives who died while serving the revolution abroad had not been brought back to Cuba for burial.
At its peak, Cuban involvment in Angola reached 50,000 but Castro agreed last December to withdraw all its forces by early 1991 as part of an accord brokered by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Chester Crocker.
Cuba’s troop commitment to Ethiopia declined over the years and ended altogether several months ago.
Cuba also has been involved in internationalist missions of either a civilian or military nature in a number of other countries, including Equatorial Guinea and Mozambique and in the Middle East and Asia as well.