Renewed Fighting In Southern Angola; 16 More Rebels Killed
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ South African troops killed 16 South-West African guerrillas in new clashes in southern Angola on Sunday, bringing the rebel death toll to 61 over two days, authorities said.
Gen. Constand Viljoen, commmander of the South African armed forces, had said Saturday in Pretoria that the soldiers would leave Angola Sunday.
The South African withdrawal was delayed by renewed fighting and the seizure of arms caches, said Gen. George Meiring in a statement released in Windhoek, capital of the South African-ruled territory.
South African troops on Saturday pushed 6 to 9 miles into Angola, tracking black nationalist guerrillas who launched a mortar attack on an army base at Eenhana, sabotaged 20 telephone poles and tried to blow up a bridge in the north of South-West Africa the previous night, Viljoen said.
Guerrillas of the South-West Africa People’s Organization, known as SWAPO, have fought since 1966 to end white South African rule over the California- sized territory, also called Namibia. The SWAPO rebels strike from bases in southern Angola.
South African forces completed a negotiated troop withdrawal from southern Angola in mid-April, more than a year behind schedule, after a December 1983 invasion of rebel bases.
Meiring, commander of the South-West Africa Territory Force, said Angola and SWAPO had been warned repeatedly that South Africa would resume cross- border raids if the guerrilla group ″continues to sow death and destruction among the civilians of South-West Africa.″
″In this regard, the current operation is the result of spontaneous following of tracks, and it was not planned beforehand,″ Meiring added.
Meiring said the rebel toll rose from 45 Saturday to 61 after Sunday’s battles. He said there were no South African casualties Sunday. One soldier was killed and one wounded Saturday.
The white-minority South African government took control of mineral- and diamond-rich Namibia during World War I, and has ignored United Nations calls to grant Namibia independence.
U.N.-sponsored independence talks have stalled over South Africa’s insistence that an estimated 25,000 Cuban troops withdraw from Marxist Angola as a condition for Namibian independence.
In May, two South African soldiers were killed and one was captured in northern Angola. South Africa said they were on a mission to gather intelligence on SWAPO and the African National Congress, which is fighting white rule within South Africa itself. Angola said the soldiers were attempting to sabotage an oil installation partly owned by the U.S. Gulf Oil Corp.
That operation and South Africa’s commando raid June 14 against suspected African National Congress members in the capital of Botswana brought worldwide protests. Twelve blacks died in that raid.
The United States protested by calling home Ambassador Herman Nickel for consultations. He has not yet returned to Pretoria.
In South Africa, police found the charred bodies of two blacks, one with stab wounds, near their burned-out car. Two anti-apartheid activists traveling with them were missing and feared dead, friends said Sunday.
Rioting broke out Saturday in Cradock, a small eastern Cape town 150 miles north of Port Elizabeth, when residents learned of the deaths and disappearances nearby.
Police said they used birdshot, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse crowds that pelted them with stones and threw gasoline bombs at houses.