A CIA plane en route from Zaire to Angola carrying military and other equipment for U.S.-backed rebels crashed this week, killing at least five Americans and an undetermined number of guerrillas, government officials said Wednesday.
The L-100 aircraft, a version of the C-130 four-engine turboprop transport, left a military base at Kamina, Zaire, on Monday night and went down not far from the southeastern Angolan town of Jamba, where the rebels of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) have their headquarters, the sources said.
They attributed the crash to pilot error.
They said all of the Americans on board were killed, along with several UNITA rebels. Several other rebels survived, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Asked for comment, CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said, “As a matter of policy, we never confirm or deny such reports.”
The sources were unable to identify the dead Americans, but a Defense Department official on Tuesday reportedly notified the family of James Spessard, 31, of Hagerstown, Md., that he had died in a plane crash “near Zaire.”
Since 1986, the United States has been providing military aid to UNITA. The group, headed by Jonas Savimbi, has waged a 14-year struggle against the Soviet-backed government in Angola.
U.S. resupply planes have been secretly using Zaire as a staging area for sending materiel to the rebel forces, but Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko ordered a halt to the activity last June when he launched a peace mediation effort.
During a visit to Washington in early October, U.S. officials persuaded Mobutu to allow the resupply flights to resume, the officials said. The Monday flight was the first since June.