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Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Unita attack east of Luanda
Unita soldiers
Unita can strike without warning over a large area
By Justin Pearce in Luanda

Angolan rebels attacked and held a town just 200 km east of Luanda for more than a day.


Reports from aid workers indicate that the attack took place about 0200 GMT on Monday in the town of Golungo Alto in Cuanza Norte province.

A Unita statement claimed that its forces had captured the town.

Aid workers counted more than 700 people fled the town and arrived in the provincial capital Ndalatando, which is about 60 km from Golungo Alto.

Independent reports indicate that Unita soldiers did indeed occupy the town for more than 24 hours, before leaving around 0900 GMT on Tuesday.

Recapture

The Angolan Armed Forces have now once again taken control of the town.

Maionga Isaura
Children fled to Luanda after an earlier UNita attack on Caxito
The Unita soldiers looted food and drink from the town, and there are reports of the rebels singing and dancing drunkenly in the streets.

None of those who reached the provincial capital were injured, but there are still no indications of how many dead or injured may still be in the town

An aid official in Ndalatando said the armed forces had imposed a media blackout on Golungo Alto, which means that details of the attack are still sketchy.

The three aid agencies that have bases in Golungo Alto are waiting for news of their staff - a total of eleven people - who are still in the town.

The Unita statement also said that its soldiers had carried away military equipment.

Peace talks

A Unita spokesman in Portugal, Joffre Justino, said Unita had carried out the attack to show that the rebel movement was not going to be defeated by military means - but added that Unita remained committed to peaceful negotiations.

Observers of the military situation say that the Angolan Armed Forces are spread thinly over Angola's large and sparsely populated territory.

With Unita apparently able to strike without warning over a wide area, the best the army can do is to move in to secure a particular location only after an attack has taken place.

The attack on Golungo Alto comes only days after reports of an attack on Baia-do-Cuio, close to the southern coastal city of Benguela.

Just over two weeks ago, the rebels attacked the town of Caxito, near Luanda, killing over 100 people and kidnapping 60 children, who are still missing.

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See also:

29 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Angola
10 May 01 | Africa
Unita 'made children carry loot'
08 May 01 | Africa
Angolan children 'not abducted'
03 Nov 00 | Africa
Row over Angola air crash
12 Oct 00 | Africa
Angola war 'threatens region'
26 Apr 00 | Africa
UN: Angola is on the brink
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