MPLA 'wiping out rebel supporters'

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LUANDA (AP) - Unita rebels accused the government yesterday of launching a military campaign to wipe out rebel sympathisers in the Angolan provinces after a weekend battle with government troops left up to 200 dead.

Fighting was reported to have stopped in Lubango, 415 miles south-east of Luanda, after government and rebel troops fought on Sunday for control of the town and its military air base. The UN said police threatened to shoot UN peace-keepers who tried to intervene during the fighting.

Unita's spokesman, Jorge Valentim, speaking on Portuguese radio, accused the government of 'authentic genocide, an authentic massacre' and said Unita members in Lubango had turned over their weapons to the regional government. 'We tried to act like a political party, and not a military party, and we were treacherously attacked,' Mr Valentim said.

Unita has controlled more than half the country since its leader, Jonas Savimbi, rejected the results of September's multi-party elections and reassembled his rebel army.

Unita, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, lost legislative elections and Mr Savimbi lost the first round of the presidential vote to Angola's President, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, leader of the ruling the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).

It was unclear how many were killed in Lubango. Angola's news agency, Angop, reported 200 dead, and said a government military commission had left for Lubango and would issue an official report. State radio said fighting broke out when rebels fired upon a government troop truck in Lubango on a 'preventative mission'.

Unita troops in Lubango were overrun and Unita sympathisers and their families were killed when government police backed by armed civilians stormed Unita headquarters in a central Lubango hotel, Portuguese radio reported.

The UN said its peace-keepers tried to intervene as soon as fighting began, but were told by government police they would be shot if they did not return to the UN camp. They said the camp was subsequently surrounded and searched by government police who killed one of the three Unita members who sought refuge there. The other two were taken away and the UN camp was later fired upon by unknown gunmen. A US spokesman in Angola, called on both sides to 'stop shooting and start talking'.