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U.S. Diplomats Will Try to See Captured Americans

October 29, 1989

MAPUTO, Mozambique (AP) _ U.S. diplomats are hoping to visit seven American members of a missionary medical team who were taken captive by Mozambican soldiers, a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said Sunday.

Cynthia Efird, the spokeswoman, said the Americans and two captured colleagues had been flown to Maputo from a military compound in northern Mozambique, where they were taken into custody last week near the border with Malawi.

Ms. Efird said Mozambican authorities promised to give U.S. diplomats access to the captives after initial questioning was conducted.

The state-run South African Broadcasting Corp. said the medical team apparently entered Mozambique illegally, but Ms. Efird said she did not know if charges would be filed.

Mozambique has been wracked by a guerrilla war since 1977. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled into Malawi, and the guerrillas of the Mozambique National Resistance have on occasion set up bases there.

The medical team was sent to the border area by the Christian Emergency Relief Team, based in Carlsbad, Calif.

Kris Courson, the relief group’s director of medical services, identified six American members of the team: Dr. Ken Daugherty, of San Diego; Dr. Fred Leist and his wife, Lucille, of Bremerton, Wash., Dr. John Cannon, a dentist from Davenport, Iowa, and paramedics Carol Roberts of Syracuse, N.Y., and Steve Sherrill of Stroudsburg, Penn.

Ms. Efird said there was a seventh American in the group, but she did not release a name.

Also seized, according to the relief agency, was a South Africa missionary, George Bezuidenhout, and a man named Peter Hammond. The relief agency said Hammond was South African, but Ms. Efird said he held a British passport.

South Africa formerly aided the guerrillas in their war against the leftist government but signed a treaty in 1984 pledging to halt this aid. The U.S. government supports the Mozambican government, although some right-wing groups in the United States oppose this policy and depict the rebels as freedom fighters.

Hundreds of thousands of Mozambicans have died and millions have been displaced because of the fighting and resultant food shortages. The rebels have been widely accused of commiting massacres and attacking mostly non- military targets.

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