Angola: IRIN News Briefs, 7 February

UNITA attacks border town
Dozens of people were reported to have been killed or wounded early on Sunday when suspected UNITA rebels launched a pre-dawn raid on the town of Santa Clara along the country's southern border with Namibia, news reports said.

"A band of Unita soldiers - said to number about 100 - attacked a section of Santa Clara called Omutaku at about 4:30 a.m. (03:30 gmt) yesterday. Shells hit sections of the border settlement and army and police bases at the town until about 7:00 a.m.," said the independent daily, 'The Namibian'. "Many people were killed in the shelling and in subsequent killings in the town itself, where people were reportedly shot and bayonetted to death."

In fighting which could be heard from the the Namibian side of the border according to eyewitnesses quoted by the newspaper, some people were also reportedly beheaded by the rebels. Hundreds of the town's residents fled across the border, and scores were being treated in Namibian clinics, it said.

Humanitarian update

The World Food Programme (WFP) has said that it planned to distribute about 15,715 mt of food to an estimated 1.13 million internally displaced people in Angola this month.

The largest distribution programme would be in Malanje, 380 km east of Luanda, where 2,783 mt of food would be distributed to a quarter of a million people. WFP said 2,447 mt of food would be distributed to 197,000 people in the central highlands city of Huambo, and 2,939 mt to 193,000 people in Bie, also in the central highlands.

WFP said an estimated 3,000 people in Huambo who had no shelter were being accommodated in a recently renovated school on the city's outskirts. "WFP will support professional workers with food for work to help these people build their own homes, but the heavy rains in Huambo are delaying implementation of the project," it said.

Helicopter crash

At least 30 people were reported to have been killed in a helicopter crash just outside the Lubango airbase in the southern Huila province at the weekend, media reports said on Monday.

According to the Catholic broadcasting station, 'Radio Ecclesia', the helicopter crashed and burst into flames on the runway shortly after take off for the capital, Luanda, on Saturday. "The cause of the crash is still not known," it said. Official media reports said an investigation team had been sent to Lubango to determine the cause of the crash.

Angolan, Zambian officials meet

The defence ministers of Angola and Zambia held talks in Luanda on Monday to discuss the refugee crisis in western Zambia and ways of halting Angolan rebel attacks on both sides of the border, media reports said on Monday.

Angolan Defence Minister Kundy Payama was quoted as saying that the meeting would seek a way to end border crossings by armed refugees, who are thought to be UNITA rebels. Zambian officials were quoted by Reuters as saying that the meeting would also include discussions of renewed Angolan claims that Zambia is giving logistical support to UNITA.

Zambia's Defence Minister Chitalu Sampa rejected reports that Angolan forces were preparing to invade his country. "Those are rumours," he said. "As you know, there are people who like to spread lies so as to harm relations between the two countries. There are no problems between Zambia and Angola."

UNITA claims

The UNITA rebel movement, meanwhile, has said its forces had killed 882 government soldiers around the country during the past three weeks.

In a statement from the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, UNITA claimed it had seized substantial amounts of military equipment, which it could no longer obtain from many former allies and had difficulty buying after losing control over diamond-producing areas. Fighting had taken place in the provinces of Bie, Huambo, Benguela, Uige, Bengo, Zaire, Malanje, Kwanza Sul, Lunda North, Lunda South, Moxico and Kuando Kubango, it said.


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