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The taking of Sá de Bandeira, 23 & 24 October 1975

By that time many refugees from the north had been streaming past and attempts were made to obtain information on the military situation from these people. Later, Major A.L. van Coller was attached as intelligence officer to the task force headquarters in order to obtain as much information about the enemy as possible. Information provided by Portuguese refugees was mostly exaggerated in respect of strengths of the enemy in some towns. Intelligence on the enemy constantly remained an uncertain factor.

Conversely, the MPLA refugees from Roçades (Xangongo) had arrived at Sá de Bandeira (Lubango) on 22 October with the news of the advance of the task force. It was immediately transmitted to Luanda from where it was broadcast on 28 October 1975 that a force with armoured cars, a light plane and a helicopter had attacked Pereira de Eça and Roçades. The helicopter, of course, was a fabrication, but the message was compounded to gunships in the foreign media. Some months later we can find it in a manuscript of the well-known author John A. Marcum: “A ‘mystery column’ marching north from out of Namibia (South West Africa), led by white South Africans, Portuguese and assorted mercenaries equipped with Panhard [sic] armoured cars and helicopter ‘gunships’, quickly pushed the MPLA out of the southern half of the Country”. (“Lessons of Angola”, Foreign Affairs, Volume 54 No 3, April 1976, p. 417)

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