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Angola Rebels Release 27, Including Two Americans

March 17, 1985|Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Twenty-seven British, American, Filipino and Portuguese civilians arrived in Johannesburg on Saturday on a Red Cross transport plane after being freed by Angolan rebels.

Officials said the men--2 Americans, 17 Filipinos, 3 Britons, and 5 Portuguese--would be examined by doctors before being sent home.

They were captured Dec. 29 when guerrillas of Jonas Savimbi's National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, or UNITA, overran a mining town in northeastern Angola. The captives were marched hundreds of miles to Jamba, the UNITA headquarters in southeastern Angola, where they were released last week.

"It feels awful good to be free," said Alan Bongard, 56, of Pleasanton, Calif., who looked tired but happy as he was hugged by his wife, Faye.

The freeing of the 22 from Britain, the United States and the Philippines was expected, but that of the five from Portugal was not. They also arrived on the South African transport plane chartered by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Americans--Bongard, and Gerhard Opel, 54, of Seattle--were abducted along with one of the Britons when they landed their Hercules transport plane in the town shortly after rebels took control.

That crew was flying for Trans-america Airlines of Oakland, under contract to the Angolan government. The insurgents attacked the airplane, apparently thinking it was ferrying government soldiers. Survivors said co-pilot William Reed of Chico, Calif., was killed in the attack.

The other captives, also abducted at the mining town, were mine employees.

UNITA has been fighting the Marxist government since Angola gained its independence from Portugal in 1975. Savimbi says the government could not survive without the aid of skilled foreign workers.

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