Angola: UNITA launches offensive killing 82

The rebel faction UNITA has claimed responsibility for two attacks in which 82 troops and police serving the Luanda government were killed. UNITA, led by Dr. Jonas Savimbi, has been fighting for control of the country for nearly 40 years, first against the Portuguese, the colonial power and then against MPLA, the faction which came to power at the time of the country’s independence, in 1975. UNITA claimed responsibility for an attack on Uige airport (northern Angola) in which 7 soldiers and 10 policemen were killed and the infrastructure of the airport was damaged, according to a claim by the rebel faction. In another military operation in the centre-East of Angola, UNITA troops captured Karipande, in an attack which caused the deaths of 65 policemen. The nature of these attacks highlights the characteristics of this faction : armed bands spread around the country, highly mobile, well armed and organised, operating from the deep countryside, rather than a European-style single front. The government faction, MPLA, controls the capital, Luanda, and the Atlantic coastline. UNITA’s influence has gradually been pushed back to the area between Luanda and the northern frontier with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the area around Lunda in the north-East of Angola and around a quarter of the central and south-eastern part of the country bordering Zambia and Botswana. UNITA still controls important diamond mines, providing the movement with the cash it needs to obtain weapons. The Angolan Armed Forces seem unable to destroy UNITA completely although the movement is much weaker than it was, with mass desertions to the cities in search of prosperity and an alternative lifestyle to living in the jungle.


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