Dead lie unburied as war spreads through Angola

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The Independent Online
LUANDA - Fighting raged in central and northern Angola yesterday with many dead and wounded lying unattended in the streets of Cuito, the provincial capital, state radio reported.

Battles between rebels and government forces had spread from Cuito to the city of Saurimo, the radio added, but gave no details of casualties. The authorities are thought to be considering a general mobilisation, signifying all- out war. The Angolan army said on Thursday that it had captured thousands of Unita (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) guerrillas. Unita forces were expelled from cities and towns across the country in a week-long offensive, forcing the rebels to request a ceasefire, it added.

Unita had been driven from Cuito, the capital of Bie province, where there had been heavy casualties after two days of fierce fighting. But battles continued on the outskirts of the city, the state radio said.

The cabinet met yesterday to discuss the military crisis and sources in the ruling MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) said ministers were likely to discuss declaring a state of emergency and a general mobilisation.

Diplomatic sources said the government of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos wanted to 'keep things legal and above board' in its ongoing struggle with Unita. The Foreign Minister, Venancio de Moura, met the diplomatic corps in Luanda yesterday and asked foreign governments to close Unita offices and not to issue passports to any of its members.

The Armed Forces commander, General Joao de Matos, said on Thursday that Unita had suggested a meeting at its Huambo headquarters, in central Angola, between him and one of its commanders, General Demostenes Chilingutila, to discuss a ceasefire.

'Taking into account the present situation, the meeting will take place, but not in Huambo,' he said. Observers in Luanda were sceptical that discussions between Unita and the government would go ahead, despite US and United Nations pressure for the two sides to resurrect the tattered May 1991 peace accord which put an end to 16 years of civil war.

Gen Matos said that if the rebels did not halt their operations, the army would 'use all of its might against Unita in every corner of the country' and predicted that fighting would get more severe.