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Wednesday, 24 November, 1999, 18:53 GMT
More landmine casualties in Angola
Angola is among the most heavily-mined countries in the world (Photo: IRIN)

By Lara Pawson in Luena, Angola

Deaths and injuries from landmines in parts of Angola have risen alarmingly since the government announced the capture of Unita rebel strongholds a month ago.

Since the fall of Bailundo and Andulo in the central highlands, the military situation in many parts of the country seems to have stabilised.

Yet in certain regions of the country guerrilla activity, such as the use of landmines and ambushes has escalated - and both government and rebels seem to be responsible.

The isolated town of Luena, the capital of Moshiko province, is said to be the birthplace of Jonas Savimbi's rebel group, Unita.

According to the locals the only time the war came to Luena was in 1991 when Unita shells fell in town for 45 days.

Today, while there may not be any shells, or even much gunfire, Luena is nevertheless home to another kind of weapon, the landmine.

In October, 18 landmine incidents killed or injured 29 people, while since the beginning of November a further 28 people have either been killed or wounded in 14 incidents.

Close to town

What makes these statistics so frightening is the fact that many of these accidents have occurred less than 10km from Luena town centre.

A recent victim, now an amputee, has reported that Unita rebels are paying civilians up to $300 to carry landmines into Luena.

Government troops are also laying new mines in a bid to protect Luena from rebel attacks.

Because they have a military purpose, these landmines are left unmarked, thus posing a serious threat to the locals.

The increase in the number of landmines has left its mark in the local hospital too, a lack of qualified surgeons means some victims must wait for over a week before having their limbs amputated surgically.

The government claims to have control of all but one municipality in Moshiko province - but it is that municipality, Kashingo, where Jonas Savimbi is rumoured to be hiding.

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See also:
29 Jan 99 |  Angola
Landmines: War's deadly legacy
15 Nov 99 |  Africa
Mass grave found in Angola
16 Nov 99 |  Africa
'End of war in sight' - Angolan general
03 Nov 99 |  Africa
Cautious 'yes' for UN Angola mission
24 Aug 99 |  Africa
Security Council blasted over Angola
20 Oct 99 |  Africa
Angolan Government confirms Bailundo victory
03 Nov 99 |  Africa
'Son' hits out at Savimbi

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