France and Belgium are reported to be making plans to airlift women and children from southern Zaire.
France and Belgium are reported to be making plans to airlift women and children from southern Zaire. Diplomatic sources report there is growing panic among whites in the south after the recent massacres in Kolwezi by invading Katangese rebels. An unspecified number of French and Belgian aircraft are reported to be on standby to airlift people from other mining towns in the province. Meanwhile, the French are withdrawing from Kolwezi to leave the war-town under the protection of Zairean soldiers.
SYNOPSIS: Before leaving, the French Foreign Legionnaires attended a memorial service for their four dead colleagues, killed in combat with the rebels when the paratroops recaptured Kolwezi, and during later search-and-destroy missions. The French claim to have killed up to three hundred anti-Government rebels during the ten days they spent in Kolwezi and its environs.
According to the Red Cross, hundreds of Zairean soldiers and civilians also died, as well as the nearly two hundred whites found massacred in the town.
The French soldiers began leaving on Saturday (27 May), withdrawing to Lubumbashi the capital of Shaba Province. Informed sources said they would undertake further search-and-destroy missions there for katangese rebels, and would remain in the area until Moroccan troops arrived to reinforce the Zairean army. Before driving out of Kolwezi, the soldiers gathered all captured arms and either packed them for shipment out of the area, or destroyed all arms to be left.
A token force of one hundred and fifty legionnaires remained in Kolwezi after the main force pulled out, but by Monday (29 May), these last paratroopers were also reported to be pulling out.
To raise White confidence, three companies of Belgian paratroops have been visiting other Shaba mining towns on "show the flag" missions. More than two thousand whites were evacuated from Kolwezi, and whites elsewhere are reported to be asking for early holidays back in Europe. Up to one thousand Zairean soldiers are undertaking the defence of Kolwezi, following the withdrawal of the European force. Observers suggest the Zairean army cannot control the area. According to some reports, a mercenary force is being assembled in Geneva to secure kolwezi from the rebels still said to be hiding in nearby bush areas.