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Angola's State-Run TV Displays Body of Slain UNITA Leader - 2002-02-23

The body of slain Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi has been shown on national television, confirming the death of the UNITA leader.

Angola's state-run television station broadcast a videotape of the body of Jonas Savimbi late Saturday. Clad in bloodstained combat fatigues, the slain UNITA rebel leader was clearly recognizable. He appeared to have a gunshot wound to the neck.

The Angolan military says it killed the reclusive guerilla leader in battle Friday in Moxico province, in the southeast of Angola.

According to the television report, the army had been chasing Mr. Savimbi and cornered him near a river. They targeted him with heavy gunfire.

A Portuguese television reporter who also saw Mr. Savimbi's corpse says he counted 15 bullet wounds on the rebel leader's body.

More than 20 other UNITA officials, including two commanders, were also reported killed in the battle that followed.

The government claims Mr. Savimbi was traveling with his wife, identified as Catarina, who was wounded in the clash but captured alive. The charismatic 67-year-old rebel leader was believed to have several wives.

UNITA officials, hiding deep in the Angolan bush, have not been available for comment on the death of the man who has led the rebel movement since its creation in 1966.

Analysts are divided as to what his death will mean for UNITA and the prospects for peace in Angola. The country's civil war is one of the longest-running and most destructive in modern Africa.

An estimated 500,000 people have been killed in nearly 30 years of fighting, although accurate casualty figures are hard to come by. The war has driven roughly four million people - or one-third of the population - from their homes.

Most analysts believe UNITA will eventually disintegrate without Mr. Savimbi at the helm. Others think it is possible another senior UNITA official will take control of the rebel group and keep fighting.

The government is urging UNITA soldiers to lay down their weapons and give up.