63 Slain as Guerrillas Attack Civilian Convoy in Mozambique
Rightist guerrillas killed at least 63 people and wounded 78 in an attack on an army-escorted civilian convoy north of Maputo, hospital and government officials said Sunday.
The attack Saturday on the main road near Maluana, 32 miles from the capital of Maputo was blamed by government officials on the guerrillas’ Mozambique National Resistance.
On Sunday, 32 charred and burning trucks and buses lined the road for almost a mile. The burned bodies of some of the drivers were found still behind their steering wheels.
Food Cargo Burned
One truck bore markings of the U.S. Agency for International Development. The cargo of food inside, destined for the drought-stricken northern provinces, had been partly looted and then burned.
The Portuguese news agency Lusa said in a report monitored in Lisbon that soldiers guarding the convoy and warplanes called in to assist attacked the rebels, killing at least four of them. Quoting a military source, it said the rest of the rebels withdrew after the air force planes appeared.
Observers in Portugal, Mozambique’s colonial ruler until 1975, said it was the first time warplanes have intervened to protect convoys near the capital.
A survivor, Salvador Manuel, said rebels attacked the convoy along its length. “They fired from both sides of the road,” he said.
Manuel, a passenger in one of three attacked buses, said he escaped by smashing a window and then crawling away through the bush.
“The bandits demanded that people give them things if they wanted to stay alive,” he said.
“I saw one man demand a watch from a woman. She said she did not have one, and he told her to go in front. He was distracted for a moment, and she ran away under some cashew trees.”
Lisbon-based spokesmen for the Mozambique National Resistance, also known as Renamo, were not available for comment.
The attack was the third on the same road in two months. The Mozambique news agency AIM said rebels killed a total of 330 people in two similar ambushes in October about 50 miles north of Maputo.
Mozambican officials accused neighboring South Africa of responsibility for the earlier attacks, saying Pretoria supports the rebels.
South Africa rejected the accusation, and the Mozambique Natioanl Resistance blamed army deserters or counterinsurgency units it said were seeking to embarrass the rebels.