LUANDA (Reuters) - Angolan opposition party UNITA said on Monday more than 1,000 civilians were killed when Angolan police clashed with members of a Christian sect last week, rather than the 13 reported by police.
There has been no comment from any independent groups on the possible death toll, while government and police officials declined to comment by telephone on Monday.
Reuters has been unable to verify the number of deaths as the area around the incident has been cordoned off, making it difficult to speak to any witnesses or officials in person.
Angola’s government has branded the more than 3,000 member religious group, which predicts the world will end on Dec. 31 and encourages its members to live in seclusion, an illegal organization.
Angolan police say 13 members of the Light of the World sect were killed by police during the raid, and that they were snipers belonging to the sect’s leader Jose Kalupeteka. Nine police were also killed, police said.
“The information that we have ... point to an interim balance of 1,080 civilians killed. Men, women, old people and children,” said Raul Danda, parliamentary leader of UNITA (the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola), in a statement.
Police spokesman Paulo Gaspar Almeida, who last week gave the civilian death toll of 13, could not be reached for comment on Monday.
UNITA has denied any role in the violence in Huambo province, one of the party’s strongholds, after provincial leaders of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’s ruling MPLA party accused the opposition - his old civil war foes - of being behind the unrest.
Kalupeteka was captured in the raid remains under police custody in an unknown location, according to his lawyer David Mendes, who told Reuters local government officials had refused him contact with his client since the arrest last Wednesday.
Writing by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Alison Williams