Guerrillas ambushed and killed three white Rhodesians on Sunday and Monday (17-18 February) in the northeastern part of the country.
Guerrillas ambushed and killed three white Rhodesians on Sunday and Monday (17-18 February) in the northeastern part of the country. An official communique issued in Salisbury on Monday night confirmed that farmer Eric Fletcher and his wife died on Sunday evening when their car was ambushed, and that another farmer, 28-year-old Paul Rouse was killed when his police reservist anti-guerrilla unit was attacked.
Paul Rouse died at the same time as Mr. Ian Smith, leader of the ruling Rhodesian Front, was making a campaign speech in Centenary only a few miles away. Mr. Smith and the 60 people present began the meeting by standing in silence for two minutes in memory of the Fletchers.
The same group is believed to be responsible for all three deaths. Paul Rouse's patrol was part of the massive security drive mounted by the Smith regime in the northeast. Over 30 members of the security forces have been killed during the past 14 months, but the forces claim to have killed 230 guerrillas in the same period. 68 civilians are also dead as a result of the attacks. Many farmers in the northeast have been critical of the security forces' methods in the area, which has borne the brunt of African nationalist movement activities.
The candidate that Mr. Smith had come to support, Mr. Esmond Micklem, who is standing in a local by-election could not attend the Monday night meeting because of security forces operations in the area. Mr. Smith arrived in Centenary by helicopter, and precautions were both tight and visible - many people attending the meeting carried handguns, and armed members of the security forces sat in on the meeting.
Mr. Smith told the meeting that his government was not prepared to "accept less than the complete elimination of terrorism from Rhodesian territory." He admitted that the security operation was taking "longer than anticipated" but the added "I do want to tell you that from the evidence put before me in the last couple of months, it does look as though the position is going to improve."