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Claims Troops Crush Mozambican Guerrillas’ Base

September 7, 1985 GMT

SERRA DA GORONGOZA, Mozambique (AP) _ Mozambican and Zimbabwean forces demolished the command center of Mozambique’s main rebel group and killed hundreds of guerrillas, according to Mozambique’s national news agency.

The Mozambique News Agency said the attack occurred Aug. 28, but the government’s announcement was delayed until Saturday, the 11th anniversary of the end of Mozambique’s successful war for independence from Portugal.

″We have broken the back of the snake,″ President Samora Machel was quoted by the news agency as saying after touring the ruins of the rebel headquarters, code-named ″Casa Banana,″ on Gorongoza Mountain in central Manica Province. ″The tail will still thrash around for a while. Now we are pursuing the head of the snake.″

The joint forces, in a series of strikes carried out during the past two months against the rebel group, the anti-communist Mozambican National Resistance, also destroyed two other bases, according to the agency report.

It said the rebel leader, Afonso Dhlakama, escaped from Casa Banana on a motorbike as government troops closed in.

A Zimbabwean government spokesman, who declined to be identified in accordance with civil service regulations, confirmed that Zimbabwean troops had participated in the attacks.

The news agency reported that the assault began at dawn on Aug. 28 with bombing raids followed by drops of paratroopers. It said a Zimbabwean paratrooper was asked by an agency reporter how many rebels were slain and quoted him as saying, ″I don’t know. But there were many, many.″ The report made no mention of casualties among the Mozambican and Zimbabwean forces.

The rebels, who normally issue their statements in Lisbon, Portugal, did not report the Casa Banana attack. But in an indirect reference to recent fighting, a communique released in Libson Saturday denied that Dhlakama had been wounded and said Robert Mugabe, the prime minister of Zimbabwe, and Machel ″will pay dearly for this massacre against the Mozambican people.″

That communique also reported the release of several foreign prisoners who had been captured in a recent assault on the government’s Luabo sugar center in Zambezia Province. It quoted Dhlakama as saying he ordered the release ″as an act of goodwill″.

The report said two Italians and two Britons were among 10 foreigners released in Malawi, but gave no information about the other six. It said, without elaboration, that two Soviet advisers captured in the Luabo attack were not freed.

The National Resistance was formed in 1977 with the backing of the white- minority government in Rhodesia to fight Mozambique’s Marxist rulers who were supporting black guerrillas fighting for independence in Rhodesia. Rhodesia, a former British colony, was renamed Zimbabwe and established black- majority rule after gaining independence on April 18, 1980.

Zimbabwe halted the deliveries of arms and supplies to the Mozambican rebels, but South Africa took over as their main supporter until South Africa and Mozambique signed a non-aggression treaty in March 1984.

The two other rebel bases reported destroyed by the government were the central regional command in Manica Province and a training camp at Gogogo, 25 miles west of Casa Banana.

The regional command base was the launching site for guerrilla attacks on power lines and the oil pipeline and railway linking the Mozambique port of Beira with landlocked Zimbabwe.

Several thousand Zimbabwean soldiers have been guarding the pipeline and railroad against rebel sabotage.