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Prime Minister Visits, Survivors Give Account of Massacre

July 24, 1987

INHAMBANE, Mozambique (AP) _ Survivors of a village massacre in which 386 people died said Thursday the attackers chanted political slogans as they went from hut to hut, shooting and bayoneting women and children.

The killers then turned their weapons on patients at the local hospital, slaying many in their beds, said wounded survivors in Inhambane Provincial Hospital.

The government said about 76 people were wounded in Saturday’s attack in Homoine, a small agricultural town 300 miles north of the capital of Maputo and 18 miles inland from this coastal town.

The government has accused the Mozambique National Resistance, fighting for 10 years to overthrow the Marxist government, of carrying out the massacre.

The guerrilla movement, known as RENAMO, has denied involvement.

The South African government also denied Mozambique’s accusation that Pretoria was ″direclty responsible″ for the killings because it had recently parachuted new weapons to the guerrillas.

Mozambique says South Africa still aids the rebels in violation of a 1984 peace accord. South Africa denies the charge.

Children with their heads, eyes or arms bandaged were among those being treated at the Inhambane hospital.

Celeste Severian, 30, sat up in bed to talk, wincing in pain from a leg wound. She said her six-month-old daughter was killed.

Ms. Severial said the attackers chanted, ″We want to finish off the people of President Samora Machel,″ Mozambique’s first president following independence from Portugal in 1975. He died Oct. 19 in a plane crash inside South Africa, and his foreign minister, Joaquim Chissano, became president.

Another patient, Nizar Moussa, was shot in the chest.

″About 5:30 in the morning the armed bandits appeared,″ Moussa said. ″They began to spread out throughout the town. They tried to attack the police headquarters. They did not succeed so they went to the hospital. They went house to house massacring people.″

Moussa said about 80 local militiamen fired at the attackers from trenches in the town but were outnumbered.

AIM, the national news agency, sent a reporter into the town, reachable only by an army-protected convoy, and interviewed an American identified as Mark von Koevering. The 30-year-old Michigan man is working for the Mennonite Church on a seed multiplication project in the town.

Von Koevering was quoted as saying he heard gunfire at about 5:45 a.m. Saturday and looked out of his hotel room.

He said he saw ″40 or 50 armed troops coming down the street. At first I thought they were probably soldiers because they had uniforms and were very well equipped. But they were shooting every person and building in sight.″

When a bullet hit the ceiling of his room, von Koevering and other hotel guests hid for 10 hours in a utility room until the fighting subsided.

When he came out of the hotel, von Koevering said he saw ″six or seven women in a group lying on the road. All were shot.″

Prime Minister Mario Machungo traveled by helicopter, ferry and a car convoy Thursday to reach Homoine.

″Some of the people who managed to escape told us that they killed pregnant women with bayonets. They shot such people in the hospital beds,″ he told a dockside news conference in Inhambane after returning from Homoine.

″What they did was massacre, just to kill for the sake of killing,″ Machungo added.

The prime minister was asked to comment on moves by Republican U.S. Senators Robert Dole of Kansas and Jesse Helms of North Carolina to encourage talks with the guerrillas and consider possible American aid to them.

″If you are able to kill a pregnant woman in a hospital bed, you are backing these people,″ Machungo said. ″When the baby is taking milk from the mother, they kill both. You back these people.″

The government said most of the dead had been buried by Tuesday.

Update hourly