Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi vowed Friday to root out Islamic State-linked militants in the north of the country with the help of regional allies that are set to contribute ground forces.
The 16 Southern African countries in the SADC bloc on Wednesday approved the deployment of forces to help quash the deadly insurgency that has ravaged the gas-rich Cabo Delgado province since late 2017.
The insurgency has claimed more than 2,900 lives, according to conflict data tracker ACLED, and displaced around 800 000 people, according to the United Nations.
SADC did not say how many troops would be sent or when, but President Nyusi, in a speech marking the country’s 46th anniversary of Independence from Portugal, said the militants would be crushed with foreign assistance.
“We will do everything to ensure that the coming times are of despair and agony for the terrorists operating in Mozambique,” said President Nyusi in a televised address.
Mozambique’s “brave defence and security forces will intensify their operations to hunt down these criminals, getting the necessary support from SADC and friendly countries but without compromising our sovereignty as a nation,” he said.
Portugal and the United States have provided training for Mozambican troops, but this is the first time Nyusi’s government has been open to foreign boots on the ground to fight the jihadists.
Portugal’s Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva on Wednesday said he expected a European Union military training mission for Mozambique to be approved on July 12.
Also, Angola’s Secretary of State for the Interior, José Bamoquina Zau, affirmed on Thursday that the country supported SADC’s efforts of fighting against terrorism in the province of Cabo Delgado in northeast Mozambique.
Mr Bamoquina Zau, who was speaking to journalists in Maputo, was part of the Angolan delegation at the Summit of Heads of State and Government of Southern Africa Development Communities (SADC), held on June 23 in the Mozambican capital.
Regarding Angola’s contribution to the fight against terrorism in Mozambique, he said that it could only be done in light of the SADC’s guidelines, within the scope of the regional organization’s Stand-by Force.
“Support is linked to material aspects and resources to the Mozambican Defense Forces”, underlined Mr Bamoquina Zau, stressing that the issue of terrorism in Mozambique is pertinent because it is a global and regional matter.
The province of Cabo Delgado – rich in mineral resources – has been the target of terrorist attacks by insurgents that have caused death to the local population and a large number of displaced people fleeing the actions of terrorists.
The Angolan delegation was headed by Minister of the Interior Eugénio Laborinho, representing Angolan President João Lourenço.
Meanwhile, the Mozambican Armed Forces (FADM) appear to have lost a helicopter in fighting around Afungi in Cabo Delgado province.
Agence France Presse (AFP) reported that Islamist militants clashed with Mozambican government forces in a new attack in Palma district, near the installations of the multimillion-dollar Afungi gas exploration site, on Wednesday afternoon.
The militants were repelled with air support, a security source told AFP, adding that a Mozambican Air Force Mi-8 helicopter trying to deploy troops from the base in Patacua – about five kilometres from Afungi – developed technical problems and made an emergency landing.
However, Intelyse travel risk & information services reported that a Mozambican Air Force Mi-17 was shot down on June 23 after being hit by small arms fire.
“According to the latest reports on the ground, the FADM secured the crash site, but information on its exact location remains unclear. Intelyse sources reported tense situations in both Afungi and Mueda — the Defence and Security Forces’ (DSF) headquarters — over the past 24 hours,” the company said.
The clashes around Afungi came at the same time as southern African regional leaders met in Maputo and approved the deployment of a regional standby force from SADC to help Mozambique fight terrorism.
There has been a renewed round of attacks in Palma over the last week.
A decade ago, the Mozambican military had several Mi-8 and a couple of Mi-24 helicopters in service but most of its aircraft were unserviceable. Earlier this year Mozambique received several upgraded Mi-17 and Mi-24 helicopters through Paramount. It is not clear if they are flown by foreign or Mozambican crews. – AFP/Angola Press/Defence Web