'Unita HQ captured'

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The Independent Online
LUANDA (AP) - Angolan government troops yesterday captured the headquarters in Huambo of the Unita rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi, a government military report said. Mr Savimbi was said to have escaped.

The rout of the rebels further jeopardised hopes for peace in Angola. The fighting is the latest in a week of battles between government forces and troops of the former rebel movement in several cities. Unita lost elections in September which it was hoped would end 16 years of civil war.

Huambo, a central highlands city 300 miles south-east of Luanda, has been Mr Savimbi's headquarters since he rejected the results of the elections and reassembled his military. Rebels retreated there on Friday after suffering a defeat in the nearby city of Cuito, said Joao de Matos, the chief of staff of the Angolan military.

Yesterday a street-by-street battle for the city broke out after rebels attacked the governor's compound, he said. But Mr Savimbi apparently escaped the city before fighting broke out.

'When fighting ended, there was not a single member of Unita left in town,' said General Jose Maria, speaking on Angolan national radio. 'We have to assume their leaders managed to leave before the conflict began.'

An Unita spokesman, Jorge Chitendo, said on Portuguese television that more than 100 people had died in Huambo.