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14 Killed In Namibian Bomb Blast

February 19, 1988

WINDHOEK, South-West Africa (AP) _ A bomb exploded today in a crowded bank in a northern town, killing 14 civilians in the deadliest such attack since a guerrilla war for independence began 22 years ago, police said.

The 1 p.m. blast at the First National Bank in Oshakati killed 10 women, three men and a child, and injured more than 30 people, police said. All were black except for one white woman.

Earlier police statements had said between 13 and 16 people were killed.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion, which caused extensive damage to the building. The same bank was bombed last year, but no one was injured.

Police said about 55 pounds of plastic explosive was used. Police inspector Keirie Du Rand said a fire raged for several hours after the explosion, hampering police access to the scene.

Oshakati is in north-central Namibia, about 25 miles south of the Angolan border. It is home to a major South African military base.

Guerrillas of the South-West African People’s Organization, based in neighboring Angola, frequently operate in the area. SWAPO’s military wing is outlawed, but its political wing is legal.

A statement received in Windhoek from a SWAPO office in Luanda, Angola, denied SWAPO involvement in the bombing. The statement said the blast was part of a South African campaign to discredit SWAPO.

SWAPO has been fighting since 1966 to gain control of South-West Africa, also known as Namibia. The territory is administered by South Africa in violation of a United Nations resolution.

SWAPO has claimed responsibility for numerous previous bombings in the territory, including a blast last month of a store at a military base in Windhoek. No one was injured in the blast, which was intended in part to protest the visit to Namibia of conservative West German politician Franz Josef Strauss.

The worst bombing in the region occurred in 1986 in the port town of Walvis Bay, a South African enclave near the center of Namibia’s Atlantic Coast. Five people were killed and 23 injured in that explosion, which occurred at a crowded butcher shop. No group claimed responsibility for that blast.

Only about 70,000 of Namibia’s 1.3 million people are white, and the South African government has installed a multiracial transitional administration to run the territory’s affairs. There is an ongoing debate about whether a new constituion for Namibia should give special protection to whites.

South Africa has used northern Namibia as a staging post for current military intervention on behalf of the UNITA rebel movement in Angola. South African officials say they will not grant independence to Namibia until after withdrawal of the 40,000 Cuban troops fighting in support of Angola’s Marxist government.

SWAPO has attacked both military and civilian targets during its sabotage and bombing campaign. An estimated 20,000 people have died during the bush war, about half of them guerrillas, about 700 of them security forces, and the rest civilians.

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