Despite being located in an arid region, Moçamedes (Namibe) had developed into the most important port in Southern Angola because of its railway link to Sá de Bandeira and further east up to Serpa Pinto (Menongue). Up to that stage, the port itself had not been too adversely affected by the civil war.
A Portuguese army unit stationed in the fort at the port, had prevented any of the Angolan movements from obtaining control over it. At the time of the capture of Sá de Bandeira, this Portuguese unit was still in Moçamedes, a fact unbeknown to Colonel van Heerden. Even so, both the MPLA and the FNLA were well represented in the town.
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