Separatists claim to have killed Angolan soldiers

Luanda - Separatists in an exclave on Africa's west coast ruled by Angola on Wednesday claimed to have killed several Angolan troops in a flare-up of a long-running territorial dispute.

The fighters are seeking independence for the oil-rich territory known as Cabinda which is sandwiched between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo-Brazzaville, with the Atlantic ocean to the west. It is not linked to mainland Angola.

"Nine soldiers of the Angolan armed forces were killed in combat Tuesday," said Jean-Claude Nzita, spokesperson for the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda-Armed Forces of Cabinda (FLEC-FAC) separatist group.

Two of the group's fighters were also killed in the clashes, he added.

An Angolan army source, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said that five soldiers had been killed by "guerilla action".

Nzita also claimed that separatist forces had killed 18 Angolan soldiers in recent weeks although this was not confirmed by Luanda.

Cabinda produces 60% of Angola's oil output, helping to make the country Africa's second largest producer after Nigeria.

Despite its vast natural riches, most of Cabinda's 400 000 people live in poverty and human rights groups regularly accuse authorities of abuses.

There have been regular clashes between Angolan authorities and separatists since Luanda annexed the former Portuguese territory after it received independence.

Despite a peace deal signed in 2006 with one branch of the Cabinda separatists, many fighters have never given up the fight against Angola.

The separatists last came to international attention when they attacked a bus carrying the Togolese football team during the Africa Cup of Nations in 2010 as it traversed Cabinda, killing two people.