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Survivors Say Attackers Killed Bedridden Hospital Patients, Children

July 24, 1987

INHAMBANE, Mozambique (AP) _ Attackers killed bedridden hospital patients and chanted political slogans while killing children in what the government said was a rebel massacre of 386 villagers, wounded survivors said.

″About 5:30 in the morning the armed bandits appeared,″ said Nizar Moussa, who was shot in the chest in Saturday’s attack. ″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.″

Mozambique’s Marxist government blamed rebels of the Mozambican National Resistance for the killings in Homoine, a small agricultural town 300 miles north of the capital, Maputo, and 18 miles inland from this coastal town.

The guerrilla movement, which has been fighting for 10 years to topple the government, denied involvement. In a statement released today in Lisbon, Portugal, the rebels blamed the killings on local militiamen fighting in a mutiny against government soldiers.

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

The government said 76 people were wounded in the attack. Many of them, including children with their heads, eyes or arms bandaged, were 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 6-month-old daughter was killed.

Ms. Severian 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.

The village was reachable only by an army-protected convoy. AIM, the national news agency, sent a reporter into the town and interviewed an American identified as Mark Van Koevering.

It quoted the 30-year-old Rockford, Mich., man as saying he heard gunfire at about 5:45 a.m. Saturday and looked out of his hotel room.

He was quoted as saying 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, Van Koevering and other hotel guests hid for 10 hours in a utility room until the fighting subsided, AIM said.

He was quoted as saying that when he came out of the hotel, he saw ″six or seven women in a group lying on the road. All were shot.″

Van Koevering is in Homoine to work for the Mennonite Church on a seed multiplication project in the town. His father, Bob Van Koevering, said today in Rockford that organizers of the church project ″were notified by the Mozambique government that there was a massacre and that Mark saw it and that he was all right.″

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 said.

The prime minister condemned moves by U.S. Sens. Robert Dole of Kansas and Jesse Helms of North Carolina, both Republicans, 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 South African government denied Mozambique’s accusation that Pretoria recently parachuted new weapons to the guerrillas and was directly responsible for the killings.

South Africa says it stopped aiding the rebels when it signed a 1984 peace accord with Mozambique. Mozambique contends that the aid continues.

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