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Gov’t Regains Control in Namibia

August 3, 1999

KATIMA MULILO, Namibia (AP) _ Government forces rounded up rebels and their sympathizers in a town in the remote Caprivi Strip today after fending off an attack by separatists that claimed at least 15 lives.

Heavily armed troops patrolled the streets of Katima Mulilo, while others fanned out along the perimeter of the town. Paramilitary police arrested 23 rebels or their sympathizers.

Fifty to 100 rebels tried to seize the town Monday, gaining control of the radio station and trying to commandeer a police station. After 12 hours of fighting, government troops, backed by reinforcements flown in from the capital, regained control.

The dead included three policemen, three soldiers and eight rebels, said Chief Inspector Hieronymus Goraseb, a police spokesman. Another person died at a hospital, but police did not know the identity of the victim.

Goraseb refused to confirm or deny reports that a rebel force of 500 men was advancing on the town from outlying areas. Some army and police headed out of town Tuesday, possibly in pursuit of the rebels in the surrounding subtropical bush.

Some shooting continued in the town into Tuesday morning. In the afternoon, government forces opened fire briefly, apparently to flush out suspects believed hiding in a bakery.

Police said there may be more dead outside town, but could not confirm the number. Goraseb said 16 rebels had been captured.

The insurgents were believed to be part of a movement linked to former opposition leader Mishake Muyongo, who demands autonomy for Caprivi from Namibia. Caprivians charge the government has neglected their needs.

American Peace Corps workers and other Americans were being evacuated from the area. The 15 Peace Corps workers include five in the town of Katima Mulilo, said Ruby Apsler, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in the capital of Windhoek.

``Things have been difficult with regards to getting out,″ said Bruce Parcher, 31, a Peace Corps worker from Auburn, Wash. ``The advice we get from police is that we are traveling at our own risk and they can’t guarantee anything. They would prefer we stay here.″

Over the past year, the government has cracked down on the separatist movement in Caprivi, and more than 2,500 people have fled into Botswana. About 1,500 returned home recently.

Namibian President Sam Nujoma on Monday declared a state of emergency for the Caprivi region _ a long strip of Namibia that pokes east below Angola and Zambia and above Botswana in the remote center of southern Africa.

At the local hospital, doctors worked through the night to treat 25 people admitted with gunshot wounds, said Alex Manning, a volunteer physician with a Belgian organization. At least seven of the wounded were civilians, he said.