Angola

Angola: Concern at reported border raids

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JOHANNESBURG, 19 January (IRIN) - The Zambian government said on Wednesday it was checking newspaper reports that insurgents of the Angolan rebel movement UNITA last week raided eight villages in the Chavuma district near the country's western border with Angola.
Police were quoted as saying a school teacher was beaten up and another person seriously wounded last Wednesday when suspected UNITA rebels armed with AK-47 assault rifles ransacked the villages and the residence of a local chief. He said the raiders had planted landmines to stop being pursued and that many of the local residents had fled into the surrounding bush. Many were scared to return, the spokesman said, because they feared further such attacks.

"President Frederick Chiluba has requested a thorough investigation of this matter and is giving his close attention to the newspaper reports," a government spokesman told IRIN.

The incident occurred along a stretch of border west of the Zambezi River where an estimated 21,000 Angolans have sought refuge in recent weeks following an Angolan government offensive to drive UNITA from its strongholds in southern and southwestern Angola.

Another Zambian official said: "We have been living with this conflict across our border for many years. We are doing our best with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to ensure that all those fleeing are provided for."

In the past six weeks, according to UNHCR figures, some 7,000 Angolans have also fled across the country's southern borders into Namibia. Namibia, unlike Zambia, has allowed the Angolan government to use its territory to launch attacks against UNITA rebels in the south of the country resulting in several retaliatory attacks by suspected UNITA rebels.

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