Rhodesian black nationalist leader Joshua Nkomo accused President Carter and British Prime Minister James Callaghan today of hypocrisy in condemning the shooting down of a Rhodesian airliner by his guerrilla forces yesterday while they remained silent about the death of hundreds of black civilians "murdered" by Rhodesia's security forces.
Nkomo blamed the Western powers for the air disaster, saying they were responsible for the survival of the white-led Rhodesian government. He also warned that if Rhodesia retaliated as after a previous air incident by attacking civilian refugee camps here in Zambia, he would order his guerrillas to respond in kind against the white Rhodesian minorty.
With Rhodesia's white and black leaders unanimous in urging revenge yesterday, the scene seems set for a further escalation in the ever bloodier war engulfing Rhodesia and increasingly the neighboring front-line states of Zambia and Mozambique as well.
Reacting angrily to the outcry in the West over the latest guerrilla-provoked air incident, Nkomo charged at a press conference here that the Rhodesian army was killing 60 to 100 blacks every day, starving some African civilians to death and burning down hundreds of their villages.
"But because these people are dark, there is no question of human rights," he remarked bitterly.
"Mr. Carter is so interested in human rights he doesn't see any violation of human rights when a white government supported by black puppets acts the way (Prime Minister Ian) Smith does toward our people," he said, referring to the Rhodesian government and its three black co-leaders.
The black nationalist leader confirmed that his forces had brought down the Air Rhodesia Viscount near Kariba Lake, killing all 59 passengers and crew aboard. He said it was hit on the mistaken belief that Rhodesia's top military commander, Lt. Gen. Peter Walls, and 21 other Rhodesian army officers were on the flight.
Nkomo denied that his guerrilla group had adopted a policy of shooting down civilian Rhodesian planes. "Let it be known and put on record that we do not bring down civilian aircraft," he said.
"But when civilian aircraft are used for military purposes then we bring them down," he said.
Walls was on a second Air Rhodesia Viscount plane that left Kariba airport for Salisbury only 15 minutes after the one that Nkomo's guerrillas downed, reportedly with two ground-to-air missiles.
Nkomo said his men had tracked Walls throughout the day while he was on a tour of army bases that took him first to Wankie, then Victoria Falls and finally to Kariba before returning to the capital. He had changed aircraft and civilians boarded his original one at Kariba unbeknown to the guerrillas, who had taken down the first plane's numbers, he said.
"Let the blame go where it must go -- the Rhodesian regime," he said.
Last September, Nkomo justified the downing of another Air Rhodesia passenger plane on the ground that it was carrying military supplies and personnel. Whether or not this was true, many of the 38 who died immediately and 10 of the 18 survivors killed by guerrillas after the crash were women and children.
Regarding threatened Rhodesian reprisals against guerrilla bases and refugees in Zambia, Nkomo promised to respond with similar measures against the white population in Rhodesia. "If Smith this time comes to Zambia and burns children again, then let him know that we are capable, very capable of doing the same," he said.
About a thousand persons were killed during Rhodesian raids on guerrilla and refugee camps here between late October and Christmas, according to Zambian authorities. The raids were in retaliation for the first Air Rhodesia Viscount crash. Hundreds apparently were guerrillas or recruits but hundreds of others were noncombatants.