Angola’s national police force said it killed 13 armed members of a religious sect linked to last week’s murder of police officers, while an investigation by the main opposition party showed hundreds of people died.
The 13 dead were bodyguards of Jose Julino Kalupeteka, leader of the Light of the World, which is accused of killing as many as nine policemen on April 16, Paulo Gaspar de Almeida, deputy commander of the national police force, told the state-run Angop news agency. The group operated near Caala in Huambo province, about 390 miles (630 kilometers) southeast of the capital, Luanda.
The account differs from allegations made by the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, the leading opposition party, that six of the policemen died when their vehicle overturned while fleeing the scene. They were seeking reinforcements after three policemen were disarmed and killed with their own weapons by sect members, Unita said. Police then killed more than 700 people after using helicopters to fire heavy weapons at houses, Unita said it was told by local residents.
The army was burying the dead in secret graves with three or four bodies in each to avoid mass burials, according to Unita’s account. Phone calls and text messages seeking comment on Thursday from national police spokesman Aristofane dos Santos weren’t answered. An official at the army public affairs office who only gave his first name as Adriano declined to comment because he wasn’t authorized to speak.
Reports by Angop and Jornal de Angola this week said eight police officers were killed on April 16. No reason was given for the revised toll.
Kalupeteka was arrested April 17 while 11 other members of the sect were sentenced to as long as two years in jail for resisting arrest, the state-run Jornal de Angola reported on Wednesday.
The sect broke away from the Seventh-day Adventist Church and urged members to sell their belongings and move from their villages to mountains and forests because of their belief the world will end this year, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said on April 20.
Angola ended a 27-year civil war in 2002 which pitted the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola against Unita. Propaganda supporting Unita found among sect members led some MPLA politicians to accuse the opposition party of inciting a return to conflict.