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Whites Raid S. Africa Jail to Free Ex-Military Chief

September 26, 1986|From Times Wire Services

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — White men armed with machine guns today climbed over the walls of a prison in the Ciskei black homeland and freed Charles Sebe, the homeland's flamboyant former military chief.

The men, numbering four or five, shot one black prison warden on their way to Sebe's cell, said Headman Sontunzi, the Ciskei government's director of communications. They used rope ladders to scale the prison walls, he said.

Sebe, 52, had been jailed since 1983 by his brother, Ciskei President Lennox Sebe, who suspected him of planning a coup.

He and his rescuers climbed over the walls of Middledrift Prison and sped away in three cars, Sontunzi said.

President's Son Abducted

Half an hour after the prison break, one of the president's sons, Maj. Gen. Kwane Sebe, was abducted by a group of white men outside a casino, the spokesman said. Gen. Sebe's second in command, Col. Z. Ngwanya, also was kidnaped, the spokesman said.

Kwane Sebe heads an elite assault unit of the Ciskei defense force.

Sontunzi said it was not yet known whether the prison escape was related to the abductions.

The Ciskei government did not say who it thought might be responsible for Sebe's release. A number of conservative whites from South Africa and other countries worked with him when he headed the Ciskei military.

Foe of Unionists

As security chief of Ciskei, Charles Sebe detained scores of people without charges in an effort to solidify his brother's control of the government. He is a fierce anti-communist and had worked with the South African police against trade unionists and others he suspected of helping the African National Congress, the main black guerrilla group seeking to overthrow the Pretoria government.

Ciskei, which is surrounded by South Africa, is one of 10 black homelands formed by the Pretoria government in a now-abandoned effort to reserve the rest of South Africa for the white minority. The Pretoria government gave it independence in 1981, but it is not recognized by any other government.

In Johannesburg today, a bomb exploded in a busy hotel bar, slightly wounding three people, witnesses and police said.

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