Savimbi's former allies now march to Luanda's drum: Pretoria-based company recruits veterans of Namibia war to bolster Angolan army in its struggle with Unita

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The Independent Online
ELITE counter-insurgency troops formerly serving with the South African security forces in Namibia are being recruited to help the Angolan army in its war against Jonas Savimbi's Unita rebel movement.

A security company based in Pretoria has been signing up former members of the notorious Koevoet unit and of 32 Battalion, a force made up largely of Angolans commanded by South Africans and foreign mercenaries and which once fought alongside Unita. 'A lot of Angolans were in Koevoet, and they are good because they speak the language and have family back in Angola,' said Eden Barlow, head of the security company, Executive Outcomes. The men would be used to train Angolan soldiers.

The Namibian government, led by the South West Africa People's Organisation (Swapo), which used to fight the South African-commanded Koevoet during its independence war, has been worried that recruitment of mercenaries for the Angolan conflict could involve Namibia in the war.

This month Namibian police detained and deported a man who claimed to be working for Executive Outcomes, after he was found recruiting ex-Koevoet members in the north Namibian town of Oshakati. Mr Barlow denied anyone working for his company had been detained and suggested that other recruiters had been using his company's name when they got into trouble with the authorities.

Large numbers of foreign soldiers, purportedly employed by 'security companies', have been turning up in the Angolan capital, Luanda, since the country returned to full-scale civil war in October 1992 following Mr Savimbi's refusal to accept defeat in a general election the previous month.

The companies range from the established Defence Systems Ltd based in Jersey, whose employees guard United Nations installations and the British embassy in Luanda, to rather shady firms that claim to have links with senior officials of the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA).

Earlier this month Luanda said it had expelled 18 employees of a security company called Ango-Segu Ltd and run by a former colonel in the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad. Next day gunmen raided the company's warehouses. The government said the company had hundreds of illegal weapons. Western military sources in Luanda said Ango-Segu Ltd was suspected of passing sensitive military intelligence to Unita.

The South African Defence Force showed recently its displeasure at the recruitment drive by temporarily grounding a plane owned by a Swiss-based company as it was about to leave Lanseria airport, outside Pretoria, for Luanda with 18 ex-SADF troops. Last month a plane landed at Lanseria with one dead and one wounded soldier on board, apparently from shrapnel. Two other men fled before they could be questioned.