Death toll in Angola's oil-rich Cabinda rises to nearly 40

August 8, 2016 8:36 AM EDT

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LUANDA (Reuters) - Ten Angolan soldiers were killed and nine wounded in fighting with rebels in the country's oil-producing Cabinda enclave, bringing the death toll since a flare-up in the conflict to nearly 40, the separatist guerrilla group said on Monday.

The high command of the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC), which wants independence for a territory that accounts for half of Angola's oil output, has toughened its stance since the death of its 88-year-old founder Nzita Tiago earlier this year in exile in France.

In its statement on Monday, FLEC warned the government of China to repatriate all its citizens in the oil-producing area as their presence "constitutes a provocation".

Chinese companies have invested heavily in Africa in recent years, keen to secure much-needed resources for China's economic development. However, this has sometimes provoked hostility from local miners toward Chinese managers based in Africa.

The latest clashes broke out on Friday and Saturday in the area between Dinge and Massabi, FLEC said. This follows attacks in early August when two rebels and 17 soldiers were killed.

Comments from authorities in Africa's biggest oil producer were not immediately available. On Aug. 1 the government did not respond to a FLEC claim that soldiers had been killed.

(Reporting by Herculano Coroado; Writing by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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