UK troops Angola-bound

The first of 650 British troops left for Angola yesterday to form the basis of a new UN peacekeeping operation. The battalion-sized force will be the largest British unit sent to southern Africa on active service since four battalions went to Swaziland in support of civil authorities between 1963 and 1966.

The force, based on 9 Supply Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, with 70 infantry from the Welsh Guards for protection, will provide supply and support for 7,000 troops from Brazil, India, Pakistan, Portugal, Romania, Uruguay and Zimbabwe.

It is due to become operational early next month and will be based on the south-west coast near Catumbela.

Operation "Chantress", which will last for three months until UN civilian contractors can take over, is the Army's biggest new-style peace-keeping operation after the 3,500-strong contribution to the UN force in Bosnia. It was delayed several weeks after fighting broke out again in March between the Marxist Popular Liberation Front of Angola (MPLA) Government troops and rebels of the National Front for the Total Liberation of Angola (Unita). The UN Angola Verification Mission (Unavem) III, will collect weapons as long as the ceasefire holds.

Even if disciplined units of the MPLA and Unita respect the ceasefire, there will be problems with bandits. The British commander, Lieutenant- Colonel Harry O'Hare, said that there will be little movement by road because of the threat from mines.