Rwanda troops in Mozambique claim progress against jihadists

Rwanda soldiers in Mozambique [Twitter @bisethe]

Rwandan forces in Mozambique, deployed less than a month ago to help battle jihadists, said Thursday (5 August) they have scored successes in driving out the militants wreaking havoc in the country’s gas-rich north.

The forces last week helped the Mozambique army regain control of Awasse — a small but strategic settlement near the key town of Mocimboa da Praia seized by militants in August last year.

“We are progressing well in Cabo Degaldo province,” Rwanda Defence Force spokesman colonel Ronald Rwivanga told AFP via phone text.

“We have registered successes on two fronts and are closing in Mocimboa da Praia,” he added, referring to the port town that has been occupied by the militants since 12 August 2020.

The town, from where the first Islamist attacks were staged in October 2017, has since last year become the de-facto headquarters of the IS-linked extremists.

Mozambican military forces have been struggling to regain control over the province, which is home to one of Africa’s biggest liquefied natural gas projects.

Rwanda said the insurgents had fled Awasse to other small towns near Mocimboa da Praia “but we are closing in on” them.

Rwanda’s 1,000-strong force deployed on 9 July, following an April visit to Kigali by Mozambican leader Filipe Nyusi.

Weeks after Rwanda rolled in, neighbouring countries, under the aegis of the 16-member regional bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC) started sending in troops.

Botswana became the first SADC country to send in boots on 26 July, deploying 296 soldiers. President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who chairs SADC’s defence and security arm, has been outspoken on the urgent need for regional stability.

Regional powerhouse and immediate neighbour, South Africa announced on 28 July it would deploy 1,495 soldiers.

A day later, Zimbabwe unveiled plans to dispatch 304 non-combatant soldiers to train Mozambique’s infantry battalions.

Angola will deploy, from 6 August, 20 specialised military airforce personnel while Namibia will contribute N$5.8 million (about $400,000) towards the anti-insurgency offensive.

The European Union on 12 July formally established a military mission for Mozambique to help train its armed forces battling the jihadists.

'Urgency' needed on EU military mission in Mozambique, says Borrell

The European Union must move with “urgency” to step up its support for Mozambique as it battles against a wave of attacks by Islamic insurgents by sending a military training mission to work with local soldiers, the bloc’s foreign affairs chief said on Thursday (6 May).

Former colonial ruler Portugal is already providing training for Mozambican troops, with Lisbon’s military instructors expected to make up half of the new EU mission.

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