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Rebels Expected to Release Hostages, Including Two Americans

March 13, 1985

GENEVA, Switzerland (AP) _ A rebel group is expected to release 21 hostages, including two Americans, held captive in southern Angola for 21/2 months, a Red Cross spokesman said Wednesday.

Jean-Jacques Kurz, of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the agency is still awaiting final confirmation of the date and the exact number of hostages to be freed.

Last week, the Red Cross said the hostages were unharmed and would be released Thursday, but on Wednesday, officials said they expected the release date would be Saturday.

After their release from a rebel camp in southern Angola, the hostages are to be flown on a Red Cross plane to Johannesburg, South Africa. In Johannesburg, they are to be met by officials from their respective embassies, Kurz said in a telephone interview.

The Angolan rebel movement UNITA claimed they took 22 hostages Dec. 29 when they ambushed the Kafunfo mining center in northern Lunda province, marching them 625 miles to southern Angola. They said their captives included two Americans, 17 Filipinos and three Britons.

The two Americans were crewmembers of a plane operated by Transamerica Corp. of Oakland, Calif., under contract to the Angolan government. The guerrillas forced the plane to land when it approached the mining camp during the battle.

Gerhard Opel was the pilot of the plane. He is believed to be from Washington state, but his hometown was not immediately available. Crewmember, Alan Bongard, of Oakland, is the other American. Both were reported missing after the Kafunfo incident.

It was the first time UNITA rebels took U.S. citizens hostage.

UNITA - the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola - has fought the government of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos since losing a brief civil war to the Cuban-backed Santos after Angola achieved independence from Portugal in 1975.

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