JOHANNESBURG, 9 December (IRIN) -
More than 2,000 refugees have fled Angola across the country's eastern
borders into Zambia this week as fighting between government forces and
UNITA rebels intensified, a UNHCR spokesman told IRIN on Thursday.
"There has been fighting along nearly the entire border," an African diplomat told IRIN. "It is clear that this is part of the ongoing all-out effort by government forces since October to flush the rebels out of their traditional strongholds."
Several sources told IRIN that fighting was seen and heard in recent days from the extreme northwest border town of Jimbe, where it was reported a shell had landed in a tract of open no-man's land between the two countries.
The UNCHR spokesman in Lusaka, Zambia, said he expected the number of refugees to grow.
Meanwhile, from the Namibian capital Windhoek, UNHCR said it was also gearing up for a new influx of refugees following a lull in fighting along Angola's southern borders during last week's general election in Namibia.
Namibian government officials had asked Luanda to hold back with further offensives until the election was over because it feared disruptions along the border, most notably in the northeast Caprivi Strip, where earlier this year separatists launched an attack from Angola.
"Our refugee figures currently stand at 2,400 since November," said Hasdy Rathling, UNHCR's Senior Liaison Officer in Namibia. He said that during the past 10 days, all 6,300 Angolan refugees camped along the border had been moved to a secure camp in Osire, 750 km south of the border.
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