Black nationalist leader Joshua Nkomo said yesterday that Rhodesian aircraft were still operating inside Zambia in an attempt to rescue troops trapped during the fighting around several of his guerrilla camps last week.
Giving the nationalist version of the raids on his camps here, Nkomo said the Rhodesians had not come anywhere near killing the 1,500 persons they claimed in a military communique issued Saturday. Nkomo said the Mkushi camp, one of 12 guerrilla camps the Rhodesians claim they attacked, was a women's camp. Around 100 of the women were killed, he said.
Following the raids, the reactions of Nkomo and Robert Mugabe, coleaders of the nationalist guerrilla Patriotic Front, seemed to auger poorly for the latest Western peace attempts to organize a meeting of a parties to the Rhodesian tangle. The leaders of the biracial government in Salisbury have agreed to such a meeting if there are no preconditions.
The situation remains extremely fluid, however, with the five "frontline" African presidents still trying to decide whether to support a new conference and the two nationalist guerrilla leaders showing some ambiguity in their positions.
For example, Nkomo yesterday violently attacked Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith and the three black leaders of the transitional government referring to Smith as "that man with crooked nose" and calling him a "beast, brute, criminal and thief." But he did not rule out the possibility he would accept them at a conference with Britain as part of the British delegation, a position that in the past has allowed him to sit at the same table with Smith.
Although Nkomo Saturday rejected a proposal for an all-party conference, he went out of his way at his third press conference here in as many days to say that he was still prepared to hold talks with Britain about transferring power "unconditionally" in Rhodesia to the black nationalists. But he said he would no longer discuss "entrenched clauses" providing guarantees for whites remaining in Rhodesia after the blacks took over. These, he said, are "nonsense."
Meanwhile, Mugabe said in Luanda, Angola, yesterday that he was prepared to meet with Smith and the three black leaders of the transitional government only to discuss the dismantling of their regime and the transfer of total power to the guerrillas.
"These are out terms for negotiating," he told the Angolan news agency. "If Great Britain refuses these terms then the war will continue."
But he did not reject out of hand attending an all-party conference as proposed by Great Britain and the United States, as part of a negotiated settlement of the Rhodesian war.
Meanwhile, Nkomo gave reporters another detailed account of a second camp hit by the Rhodesians during their raids Thursday and Friday deep into Zambian territory on a number of guerrilla-run centers.
He said the Mkushi camp, which a party of Western journalists visited with the attacking Rhodesian forces, held a total of 1,633 persons of whom only 34 were men. The others were young women being trained to serve in the nationalist police force and the emigration, customs, health and welfare services when the Patriotic Front take over in Rhodesia, he said.
All but 192 of the camp's inhabitants had been accounted for, he said, with around 100 of these believed dead and the others still missing and possibly dead.
Western journalists taken to the camp by the Rhodesians following the attack reported seeing only about 50 uniformed bodies, most of them men, scattered around the camp.
He presented at the press conference a young woman with a bandaged foot from the Mkushi camp who said "it held only us girls."
She said the total number and types of arms at the camp, used for training and defense, were 42 semiautomatic rifles, five AK47s, two bazookas and one light machine gun.
"We had nothing else," she said.
"They were being trained," Nkomo said, "but they were women . . . We deliberately put these girls far north for their safety and training in peace."
Nkomo said Rhodesian soldiers had fired into a group of 190 young women who had been tricked into coming out of their hiding places and assembled on the camp grounds.
The Rhodesian soldiers, he said, had forced one of the women to blow the whistle used to bring the camp to assembly. When about 90 of them had gathered, they first tried to force the same women to kill her colleagues and when she refused the Rhodesians themselves opened fire on the group.
Another 30 were killed with grenades and fire bombs while hiding in a trench, he said adding that this was what the Rhodesians apparently understood by "Western civilization."
He also reported that his guerrillas had shot down one more Rhodesian Canberra bomber and helicopter, bringing the total number of bombers, helicopters and reconnaissance planes they have reportedly brought down to nine since the attacks began Thursday.
Nkomo said six Rhodesian helicopters were still flying around some of his camps yesterdy but that the fighting had died down despite the fact some Rhodesian troops were still stranded inside Zambia. The Rhodesians said Saturday that all troops and planes had pulled out of Zambia.