South Africa, Zimbabwe trained 'mercenaries'
Highly placed sources told New Zimbabwe.com that the plane was due to pick-up an assortment of military weaponry after a deal was clinched between the Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) and an unnamed third party.
say all the equipment found on the aircraft was bought from Denel, a
South African arms supplier.
was immediately surrounded on touch-down.
at the South African embassy in Harare said President Thabo Mbeki was
furious at the developments and believed "Zimbabwean authorities
could have handled the whole thing better".
The operator of the plane said Tuesday it was bound for the Democratic Republic of Congo for mine security work.
"They were going to the eastern DRC. They stopped in Zimbabwe to pick up mining equipment, Zimbabwe being a vastly cheaper place for such," said Charles Burrow, a senior executive of Logo Logistics Ltd which chartered the plane. He admitted almost all those on board had military experience.
In Zimbabwe, 'mining equipment' is a euphemism for military hardware as it is the same tactic used by President Mugabe's government to cloak its heavy involvement in the DRC since war broke out.
appeared consistent with intelligence information indicating the plane
was on its way to West Africa, perhaps headed for a threatening coup
in Equatorial Guinea, a small former-Spanish colony wedged between Cameroon
Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema has declared a state
of emergency and put the army on alert. At least 15 suspected mercenaries
have been arrested after a widespread clampdown on foreign nationals,
the government said Tuesday.
An initial check of US Federal Aviation Administration records showed N4610 to be registered to Kansas-based Dodson Aviation Inc., but a Dodson official said it sold the plane about a week ago to an African company called Logo Ltd.
ZImbabwe's Home Affairs (Interior) Minister Kembo Mohadi said on Monday: "The plane was actually carrying 64 suspected mercenaries of various nationalities."
Mohadi said fuller investigations were under way to establish the identity of the men and the nature of their mission. There was no word on where the airplane arrived from, or whether Zimbabwe was its destination.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has been engaged in a bitter war of words with both the United States and Britain, which have accused him of a political crackdown following his victory in the 2002 presidential elections, which the opposition and Western observers said were flawed.
Mugabe in turn accuses Western powers of attempting to undermine his government in retaliation for his controversial seizure of white-owned farms for distribution to landless blacks.
of the most prosperous countries in southern Africa, Zimbabwe now faces
regular shortages of food, fuel and foreign exchange as well as soaring
rates of inflation and high unemployment.
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