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Sunday, 12 August, 2001, 07:32 GMT 08:32 UK
Angola train toll rises
Landmine victims in Angola
Mines have claimed many victims in Angola's conflict
By Justin Pearce in Luanda

Nearly 100 people are feared dead in Angola after the train on which they were travelling apparently hit an anti-tank mine on the track.

Eyewitnesses say that armed men attacked the passengers after the explosion.


Previous attacks in northern Angola have taken the form of raids on government-held towns

The assault appears to be the work of the Unita rebels, who have carried out a number of attacks in northern Angola in the past few months.

The attack occurred about 150 km (95 miles) south-east of the capital, Luanda, as the train was heading for the town of Dondo, in Kwanza Norte province.

Official reports say the blast was caused by an anti-tank mine on the track.

Opened fire

An eyewitness interviewed on a national radio station described how men armed with automatic weapons appeared after the explosion and began firing on the passengers.

A government statement after the incident put the death toll at 16, but a local government official in the area of the crash later told the provincial radio station that 91 people had died.

More than 50 people have reached hospitals in Luanda, some in a serious condition - several had burn injuries after the train's fuel tank caught alight.

Clearing a landmine in Angola
Angola is littered with landmines

The 180 km route between Luanda and Dondo is one of the few functioning railways in Angola.

Trains run three times a week and 500 people were on board the train that was attacked, the last service before the weekend.

The train comprised both enclosed passenger carriages and open wagons, which were shared by passengers and cargo.

In a country where travel between towns is often dangerous, the rail route is an economically-important one, carrying people from their homes to workplaces in other towns and transporting goods between the capital and the provinces.

Election

The government has blamed the attack on Unita rebels, who in the past three months have made a number of high-profile assaults in areas close to the capital.

But an act of sabotage like this is something new; the previous attacks have taken the form of raids on government-held towns.

The incident also coincides with a visit to Angola by an American delegation, which is trying to assess whether conditions are right for a general election, which has been tentatively scheduled for next year.

The mine attack is being seen as an attempt by Unita to embarrass the government by reminding the visitors that Angola is still far from stable.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Justin Pearce
"The location and timing of the attacks are significant"
See also:

26 Jul 01 | Africa
Oxfam: Angola must help citizens
26 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Angola
26 Jun 01 | Africa
Angola rebels attack Uige
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