Luanda, Angola - The army intelligence service has intercepted a radio message from the Unita rebel group's new leader in which he urges his military commanders to end the civil war, the defence minister said on Tuesday.
"In this message, (General Antonio) Dembo told his commanders that if they perservered with the war it would be disastrous," Defence Minister Kundi Pahama told state-run Radio Nacional de Angola.
"We think this is a sign for them all to reach the conclusion that they should seek peace," Paihama said.
However, a Unita soldier captured recently by the army said Dembo, Unita's vice-president who took over as leader after the death of Jonas Savimbi in February, died soon after assuming the leadership. The army said on Tuesday it was investigating the claim.
The government appealed to Unita to surrender after Savimbi was killed in a gunbattle with the army on February 22.
The civil war, which began after the south-west African country's independence from Portugal in 1975, has claimed an estimated 500 000 lives.
The deputy head of the Angolan armed forces, General Geraldo Sachipeng Nunda, told state radio late on Monday that Unita forces in south-eastern Angola, where Savimbi was killed, have split into four units which are being tracked by the army.
The units were headed by Dembo, Savimbi's close aide Paulo Lukamba Gato, Unita armed forces chief General Abreu Kamorteiro, and a general identified only as Samy.
"They have no choice but to surrender or die like Savimbi," Nunda said.