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Friday, 17 December, 1999, 23:24 GMT
Unita is finished, says Angolan army

Angolan army soldiers The Angolan army has the rebels on the run, general says

The Angolan army's chief of staff has said that the Unita rebels are no longer able to wage conventional warfare against the government.

"The war against institutional authority is over," General Joao De Matos said, although he added that he expected Unita to continue hit-and-run guerrilla attacks.

Gen De Matos was speaking to diplomats, ministers and journalists at the Catumbela air base 300km (185 miles) south of the capital Luanda.

The Angolan army drove Unita from its central highland bases two months ago in what was seen as a watershed in the two-decade civil war which reignited one year ago, shattering a 1994 United Nations-brokered peace deal.

Captured weaponry

The army has since destroyed or captured about 80% of Unita's military material, according to Gen De Matos.

He displayed a range of captured weaponry, including a BMP-2 tank and a BM-21 cannon, both said to be captured in the central highlands.

BMP-2 tank A BMP-2 tank was among the Unita weaponry on display
Many brand-new Kalashnikov rifles captured before Unita had even unwrapped them were also on show.

Out of 60,000 Unita fighters, 5,632 of them had surrendered to the army, Gen De Matos said.

He also said that Unita leader Jonas Savimbi was fleeing through the bush and was being tracked by the army.

He "has been located, the army is following him as he moves slowly with a personal guard of fewer than 20 men," Gen De Matos said.

He displayed a number of computers, floppy discs and documentation which were said to comprise a large amount of data and secret information on the power base of Mr Savimbi.

Gen Matos said that the information was still being analysed but that it included details on Mr Savimbi's military strategy as well as Unita human rights abuses.

General De Matos said that 140,000 citizens had been liberated from Unita territory in the 12 months since fighting resumed.

He said that 2,500 government troops had been killed, 7,000 injured and just over 5,500 Unita soldiers had either been captured or killed.

Namibian border

Meanwhile, a senior Namibian army officer said on Friday that his country had sufficient troops on its border with Angola to deal with any Unita incursions.

"We are ready for them," said Major-General Martin Shalli, chief of staff of the Namibian defence force.

Last Sunday, Unita attacked a paramilitary police base at Musese, about 600km (360 miles) north-east of the capital Windhoek, wounding a policeman.

Another border town, Nzinze, was attacked later that day and seven civilians were injured.

The incident was an apparent revenge attack for Namibia's support for an Angolan army offensive seeking to drive the rebels out of Angola's southern Cuando Cubango province.

Namibia has allowed the Angolan army to its use facilities inside the country as it presses forward with its military campaign against the rebel movement.

Maj-Gen Shalli, while acknowledging that Angolan Government soldiers were using facilities inside Namibia, said there was "no question" of Namibian troops crossing into Angola to support Luanda's offensive.

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See also:
16 Dec 99 |  Africa
Report suggests Ugandan help for Unita
09 Dec 99 |  Africa
Angolan refugees flee into Zambia
01 Feb 99 |  Angola
Profile: Jonas Savimbi, Unita's local boy
16 Nov 99 |  Africa
'End of war in sight' - Angolan general
20 Oct 99 |  Africa
Angolan Government confirms Bailundo victory
25 Aug 99 |  Africa
Angola: Desperate days in a town under siege

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