Second UN plane downed

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The Independent Online
A UNITED Nations aircraft was shot down over Angola yesterday, the second in eight days to be brought down by anti-government rebels in the country's bloody civil war.

A UN spokesman said that the C-130 transport aircraft was carrying seven UN workers from the central city of Huambo to Luanda, the capital. It tried to return to Huambo, but crashed. The eight crew and passengers included four Angolans, two Filipinos, a Namibian and an American.

There has been fierce fighting between government troops and the rebel Unita movement around Huambo, once Unita's key base but now government- controlled. Unita, which was backed by the US during the 1980s, has fought against the Marxist government since independence from Portugal in 1974.

Angola's civil war, one of the bloodiest and longest in Africa, came to a temporary end in 1994, but has broken out again as government and rebels fight for control of the nation's rich diamond and oil resources.

The UN has evacuated dozens of its staff from Huambo after it was shelled by Unita, but about a hundred remain there. "We are relocating our people. How else are we supposed to do it?" asked Amadou Toure, a spokesman for the UN.

The 14 crew and passengers of the UN C-130 transport which was shot down last week are still missing, and the fighting has prevented a rescue mission. The Angolan government says that Unita is holding them prisoner, but the rebels deny this.

Attempts by the UN to broker a ceasefire have failed because of the unwillingness of both sides to negotiate.