Rwandan troops help Mozambique recapture key port held by jihadists

Sunday August 08 2021
Rwanda pic

Rwandan police prepare to board a flight to Mozambique at the airport in Kigali, Rwanda on July 10, 2021. PHOTO | FILE

By AFP

Rwandan forces deployed last month to help Mozambique's army battle jihadists said Sunday they had recaptured control of the key northern port of Mocimboa da Praia from the extremist militants.

"The port city of Mocimboa da Praia, a major stronghold of the insurgency for more than two years has been captured by Rwandan and Mozambican security forces," the Rwandan Defence Forces said in a tweet.

Force spokesman colonel Ronald Rwivanga confirmed this to AFP, saying "yes (Mocimboa da Praia) has fallen".

The port town, from where the first Islamist attacks were staged in October 2017, has since last year become the de-facto headquarters of the Islamic State-linked extremists, locally referred to as Al-Shabab.

Mocimboa da Praia "was the last stronghold of the insurgents, marking the end of the first phase of counter-insurgency operations which is dislodging insurgents from the stronghold," Rwivanga said in a text message.

Rwanda sent in 1,000 troops last month to shore up Mozambican military forces that have been struggling to regain control over the northern Cabo Delgado province, which is home to one of Africa's biggest liquefied natural gas projects.

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The forces last week claimed their first success since deploying, saying they had helped the Mozambique army regain control of Awasse -- a small but also strategic settlement near Mocimboa da Praia.


Regional help
"We will continue with security operations to completely pacify those areas and allow Mozambican and Rwandan forces to conduct stabilisation operations as (the displaced) return home and business continues," added Rwivanga.

The Rwandan troops deployed on July 9, following an April visit to Kigali by Mozambican leader Filipe Nyusi.

They were followed weeks later by forces from neighbouring countries, who are deploying under the aegis of the 16-member regional bloc, the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Botswana became the first SADC country to send in boots on July 26, 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 July 28 it would deploy 1,495 soldiers.


Infantry battalions
A day later, Zimbabwe unveiled plans to dispatch 304 non-combat soldiers to train Mozambique's infantry battalions.

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

Masisi and Nyusi will on Monday formally launch the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) in Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province.

Help to smoke out the insurgents has gained momentum in recent weeks.

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

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.