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Angola Rebels Claim Troop Deaths

January 18, 2000

LISBON, Portugal (AP) _ Angola’s UNITA rebel group claimed Tuesday it killed 352 government soldiers and shot down a transport plane in recent fighting in the southwest African country’s two-decade civil war.

In two statements faxed to The Associated Press in Lisbon, Portugal, UNITA accused the government of causing unrest in neighboring countries and said only talks among Angola’s foes could bring lasting peace.

UNITA claimed it had killed the troops in more than 20 attacks in eight provinces of the former Portuguese colony between Jan. 4-8. Rebels shots down an Antonov-12 near the city of Malange on Jan. 7, killing an unknown number of crew and passengers, one statement said. Most of the attacks were against rural villages or along remote roads.

There was no independent verification of the claims, and officials in Angola were not immediately available for comment. Much of the country is inaccessible due to the fighting, and both sides have used propaganda.

Both statements indicated they were sent from inside Angola, but the claim could not be verified.

The government has claimed that its major offensive last year drove UNITA from its strongholds and wiped out much of its capacity to fight. The rebels have vowed to fight on using guerrilla tactics.

The civil war between the government and UNITA, a Portuguese acronym for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, first began after the country’s 1975 independence from Portugal. Three peace accords have failed to stop the war.

On Monday, UNITA rebels attacked a village in northwestern Zambia, wounding one man, abducting two girls and stealing money, bicycles and food, the Zambian News Agency reported Tuesday.

Angola’s long running civil war has periodically spilled over into neighboring Zambia. The U.N. refugee agency estimates that some 21,000 Angolan refugees have crossed into Zambia since October.

Over the weekend, unidentified assailants armed with machetes and automatic rifles attacked a town in central Angola, slaying 115 civilians, other news reports said.

The alleged massacre took place in the town of Chinguar, a central highland town 360 miles southeast of the capital Luanda, the town’s Roman Catholic priest Agostinho Loureiro told independent radio Ecclesia. People who fled Chinguar to the government-held city of Kuito blamed UNITA rebels for the attack, according to Ecclesia.

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