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Monday, 13 August, 2001, 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK
Rebels claim Angolan train attack
Angolan Unita rebels
Unita rebels say train was legitimate target
The Angolan rebel movement, Unita has released a statement claiming responsibility for an attack on a train last Friday that left more than 150 dead.

The statement sent to news agencies on Monday quoted a spokesman as saying the train was regarded as a legitimate target because it "was being escorted by a battalion of the government army with munitions".

Clearing a landmine in Angola
Landmines kill and maim thousands
The Angolan Government said the train was carrying civilian passengers when it was derailed by a landmine and then attacked by Unita rebels.

The attack coincided with a visit by a US delegation which has been trying to assess whether conditions in Angola are right for elections to go ahead next year.

One report says 152 people were buried in a common grave near the wreck, about 130 kilometres (80miles) from the capital Luanda. It says at least 146 were wounded.

Embarrass government

The attack occurred about 150km south-east of the capital Luanda as the train headed for the town of Dondo. The landmine explosion caused the train's fuel tank to catch fire.

The 180km route between Luanda and Dondo is one of the few functioning railways in Angola, with three services a week, an economic lifeline for the provinces it serves.

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

In the past three months, Unita has conducted a number of high-profile assaults in areas close to the capital, aimed at causing maximum disruption.

This latest attack happened as a team from the United States begin a visit to the country to try and assess whether conditions are right for the holding of elections next year.

A BBC correspondent in Luanda says the attack is being seen as an attempt by Unita to embarrass the government by reminding the visitors that Angola is still far from stable.

Opposition parties in the capital have also said a vote would mean nothing more than endorsing the ruling MPLA.

BBC interview with Unita's Carlos Murgada
"President Dos Santos refuses to negotiate .The war is around the country."
See also:

12 Aug 01 | Africa
Angola train toll rises
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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