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South African soldiers firing machine guns and tossing grenades...

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- South African soldiers firing machine guns and tossing grenades attacked the homes of African National Congress dissidents in a pre-dawn raid into neighboring Botswana today, killing 13 to 15 people, the Defense Forces said.

Radio Botswana said some of the dead were shot at close range inside their bedrooms and sitting rooms and that one of the victims was a 6-year-old child shot with his uncle.

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South African Defense Forces Chief Gen. Constand Viljoen said the attacks in Gabarone, Botswana's capital, were made against 10 houses in which ANC 'terrorists' lived. The outlawed ANC is fighting South Africa's white-dominated government.

Radio Botswana said the raiders attacked shortly after midnight and fired heavy and light machine guns and mortars for about half an hour in at least five locations of the city 10 miles northeast of the South African border.

At the Dutch Embassy in Pretoria, First Secretary Jacobus van der Elden said one of those killed in the attack was Achmed Geer, who had fled to Holland where he had refugee status. His wife Roelfien Geer-Stoffer, 27, a Dutch citizen, was injured in the raid.

No further details about Geer's background were immediately available.

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Radio Botswana said Gaborone residents were awakened by scattered bursts of light and heavy machine gun fire. Neighbors were advised by the attackers through loudspeakers to stay indoors and keep their lights off.

South Africa has repeatedly warned neighboring states it would make cross-border raids to destroy bases of anti-government guerrillas. In the past decade, South Africa frequently has raided Angola, as well as Mozambique and Lesotho.

Gaborone police chief Commissioner Simon Hirschfeld said the raiders destroyed several houses and the victims of the raid were ANC refugees -- members of the ANC who have sought refuge outside of South Africa.

Viljoen said the National Congress members in Gaborone formed a control center for sabotage operations in the Transvaal province of South Africa.

'I want to clearly state that this operation was not directed at the government of Botswana or its people, but at clearly identified militant ANC terrorists,' he said.

In Cape Town, Foreign Minister Roelof 'Pik' Botha issued a five-page statement saying he had warned Botswana that Pretoria reserved the right to prevent acts of sabotage against South Africa from neighboring states and had asked Botswana to take steps against the National Congress in Gabarone.

He said he had repeatedly, and most recently on Feb. 22, warned the Botswana government the Congress was using Botswana as an infiltration route to South Africa.

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Last month, two South African commandos were shot dead by Angolan forces in the Northern Cabinda province and a third, Capt. Wynand du Toit, was captured.

The South African government maintained the soldiers were in the region to gather intelligence about the National Congress and Namibian guerrillas, but the captured commando officer told a news conference he and his men were sent to blow up the American Gulf Oil installations, the major source of Angola's foreign revenue.

Gaborone police chief Hirschfeld said the attack came at 1:40 a.m. and was directed at several houses. A number were destroyed and others extensively damaged.

Radio Botswana reported the attackers were black and white men who spoke English, Afrikaans and Sesotho, an African tongue spoken in Eastern South Africa.

After the attack, the raiders climbed into vehicles and drove to the South African border.

In January 1983, South African troops raided the homes of National Congress members in Lesotho, killing at least 40 people. The government in Pretoria said the Congress had been using Lesotho as a base for directing guerrilla operations against South Africa.

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