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Angolan troops `kill civilians' in assault on guerillas in Namibia

ANGOLAN TROOPS who swept through a rural area along the Namibia- Angola border have left a trail of burnt huts and dead bodies, some of whom appear to have been executed.

Ten days after the government troops entered Namibia to pursue Unita rebels along the Kavango river that separates the two countries, the toll on civilians is becoming apparent. Eyewitnesses said Angolan forces rounded up men, women and children last week across the river from the Manyana Lodge, 20 kilometres east of Rundu, and marched them into bush, where gunshots were later heard.

A reporter who later went to the site found the bodies of nine men, all with gunshot wounds to the forehead. The bodies had been doused with fuel and set alight. One had been scalped and another had lost a hand. Every home in a square kilometre area along the border had also been torched.

Eyewitnesses said the soldiers took cattle, beds and other looted items across the river into Namibia and sold them. "There is no law over there any more, now it's just the law of the AK-47," said Schalk Visser, who owns the Manyana Lodge. Foreign tourists have been evacuated from the area, located 600 kilometres northeast of the Namibian capital, Windhoek.

Namibia last week gave the Angolan army permission to launch attacks on strongholds of Unita, an acronym for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola. The Angolan government, locked in a 25-year civil war with the rebels, has reportedly scored major gains in recent months.

Mano Branco, an Angolan policeman, predicted that the days of the Unita leader, Jonas Savimbi, were numbered. "One more week, he is finished," he said. Analysts say that although Unita has suffered recent defeats, it could keep fighting a low-level war.