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Sunday, 11 November, 2001, 17:42 GMT
Angolan troops abduct villagers
Angolan government troops
Angolan army is often accused of crossing into Zambia
By Richard Lee in Lusaka

According to the authorities in Lusaka, Angolan government soldiers abducted over 50 Zambian civilians from villages in the district of Shang-Ombo on Friday.

Details remain sketchy, but the police spokesman, Lemi Kajoba, said that the troops had apparently entered Zambia in hot pursuit of Unita rebels.

He added that he had no idea why the civilians, including a primary school teacher and a nurse from the local clinic, had been rounded up, nor did he know exactly where they had been taken inside Angola.

Angolan refugee
Many Angolan refugees flee to Zambia to escape civil war

As for the fleeing Unita rebels, Mr Kajoba said that their whereabouts were also unknown.

Zambian army reinforcements have been rushed to the area to enhance security along the border and to fully investigate the incident.

The raid is the first major incursion for several months.

There's been no response so far from the Angolan authorities and the abductions cannot be independently verified.

Tense relations

Even so, reports of another incursion by Angolan troops into Zambia are bound to increase tensions between the two countries.

For years relations have been severely strained.

While Angola routinely accused Zambia of providing support for Unita, Zambia complained that Angola was expanding its military activities against the rebels onto Zambian soil.

But in February the two sides finally signed an agreement to help resolve their border disputes and a subsequent visit by the Angolan president to Lusaka appeared to have cemented a new, less hostile relationship.

However, if the Angolan authorities do not act swiftly, Friday's mass abduction will put this new relationship under enormous pressure, especially as Zambia is already battling with yet another Angola related problem, a massive surge in the number of refugees seeking sanctuary across the border.

See also:

01 Jun 00 | Africa
Angola warns Zambia
05 May 00 | Africa
Angola: War without end
09 Feb 00 | Africa
Zambia, Angola mend relations
10 Dec 99 | Africa
Angolan refugees flee into Zambia
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