Rebels Report Killing Two Soviets, First Use of Anti-Tank Weapons
LISBON, Portugal (AP) _ Rebels fighting Angola’s Marxist government said Friday they killed two Soviet citizens and 56 soldiers in fighting near the southeastern town of Cuito Cuanavale.
They also reported using sophisticated anti-tank weapons for the first time in the 11-year guerrilla war, claiming the destruction of seven Soviet-made tanks and an armored car in the battles Oct. 1.
A spokesman in Lisbon for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, the guerrilla group known as UNITA, said he did not know whether the weapons were supplied by the United States as part of a $15 million aid packed promised in January.
″The use of these anti-tank weapons marks a new stage in the war in Angola, but I do not have detailed information on where they came from,″ said the spokesman, Alcides Sakala.
Sakala said the rebels already had advanced anti-aircraft weapons, adding: ″Now we have the capability to combat government air and ground attacks.″
President Reagan was said to have promised Stinger ground-to-air missiles and anti-tank weapons to UNITA when its leader, Jonas Savimbi, visited Washington in January.
A UNITA statement distributed here Friday said rebels forced government troops to retreat to Cuito Cuanavale after two hours of heavy fighting along the Chambinga River. It gave rebel casualties as three killed and 14 wounded.
Cuito Cuanavale is a base for government drives against rebel strongholds to the southeastern region of the former Portuguese colony.
Both sides have reported recent fighting around the town 185 miles north of the border with South-West Africa, also known as Namibia. That territory is controlled by South Africa, which backs UNITA.
Savimbi’s rebels have claimed recently that Angolan forces supported by Soviet advisers and Cuban troops are preparing to launch a major offensive from the town.
No further information was given about the two Soviet citizens allegedly killed. An undetermined number of Soviet and other East European advisers and at least 25,000 Cuban soldiers are in Angola.