By the beginning of 1978 SWAPO had improved its organization and gained strength in Owambo and the Eastern Caprivi, UNITA was under pressure from the MPLA, and it became increasingly difficult for the SADF to operate in Southern Angola. South Africa also feared the disruption of elections it planned to hold in South West Africa excluding SWAPO.
The attack on Cassinga grew out of the plan for Operation Bruilof, wherein the SADF envisaged attacking six SWAPO targets around the town of Chetequera. During the intelligence-gathering portion of the planning for Operation Bruilof, the SADF concluded that the small town of Cassinga was the principal medical centre for the guerrillas in the region, and one of SWAPO's two regional HQ's (the other being further north at Lubango).
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