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Angola Denies Capture of Town

April 19, 1999

LUANDA, Angola (AP) _ The government on Monday denied UNITA rebels’ claims that they captured a rural town and killed 16 soldiers.

Dumilde Rangel, the governor of Benguela province in southwest Angola, said the army crushed a rebel attack on Alto Catumbela after two hours of fighting last week. He said he had no casualty figures.

UNITA claimed last Wednesday’s attack was successful and said the group controlled the town which lies on the strategic Benguela railroad running across the country.

UNITA _ a Portuguese acronym for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola _ also claimed that 55 government troops were killed in fighting in four provinces last week.

There was no independent verification of either side’s claims.

Since the civil war resumed in December, the fighting has focused mostly on rural areas of the southwest African nation.

The United Nations, which brokered the 1994 peace accord aimed at halting two decades of civil war, has pulled out its staff. Insecurity has prevented international aid agencies from traveling by road.

Civil war first erupted after independence from Portugal in 1975.

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