Zambia Coup Stopped; Rebellion's Leader Says `Angel' Told Him To Do It

HOPES OF POLITICAL STABILITY in southern Africa suffered a setback as disgruntled military officers made a coup broadcast before being stopped by government forces.

LUSAKA, Zambia - Forces loyal to the Zambian president quickly quashed a coup attempt by disgruntled military officers today, arresting nine men - including a captain who said an angel told him to overthrow the government.

A dawn radio broadcast proclaimed that a military council had deposed President Frederick Chiluba. Soon after, gunfire erupted around the broadcast center in Lusaka, the capital, and near State House, Chiluba's residence.

About four hours later, Chiluba went on the radio to say he was in control of the southern African nation, known as Northern Rhodesia before independence in 1964.

"I want to warn those who rise by the sword they will fall by the sword," Chiluba said in a brief broadcast. "I appeal to you fellow Zambians to unite and be resolute. We can't go back to the Dark Ages."

There were unconfirmed reports of casualties among rebel soldiers and government forces, but Chiluba's aide, Richard Sakala, said he was unaware of any injuries.

While quickly contained, the coup attempt showed how anti-government sentiments have hardened in Zambia just six years after Chiluba gained power in the nation's first multiparty elections.

Zambian state radio said those arrested included Capt. Stephen Lungu, who made the coup broadcast. He identified himself as "Capt. Solo" and said that the National Redemption Council, a previously unknown group, had ousted Chiluba in a campaign called Operation Born Again.

"I saw an angel, and the message was the government had to be overthrown," he said in his broadcast.

State radio said Lungu hid in a freight container when loyalist soldiers stormed the station. He and eight others were stripped to their waists and their hands tied behind their backs, workers at the station said.

Chiluba defeated longtime leader Kenneth Kaunda in the first multiparty election in 1991, then won re-election in 1996 despite complaints of corruption and inefficiency.

Zambia enjoyed prosperity from independence in 1964 until Kaunda's socialist-style economic policies and a fall in copper prices devastated the economy.

Richard Cornwell, a political analyst, said general dissatisfaction with hardships in Zambia and "a society ravaged by AIDS" probably led to the attempted coup.