Maputo — Forces from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) will shortly go into action against ISIS terrorists in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, Defence Minister Jaime Neto was quoted saying Wednesday by O Pais.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday in Lilongwe, where he was accompanying President Filipe Nyusi at the SADC Heads of State Summit, Minister Neto said “right now the SADC force is installing itself in all the places where it has been decided that they will pursue the enemy. I believe that very soon the SADC offensive will start”.
Mozambican troops and their Rwandan allies “have gone into combat several times and we think they have done a very good job”, Minister Neto continued, “because they have created conditions for stabilising the areas where the enemy has been driven out”.
The Mozambican and Rwandan forces retook the town of Mocimboa da Praia from terrorist hands last week, and Minister Neto said they are continuing to gain ground and occupy positions previously under ISIS control.
This meant that the road was now safe between the towns of Mueda and Palma “and now there is an advance towards the terrorist bases known as Siri-1 and Siri-2”. These bases are in dense bush in the south of Mocimboa da Praia district.
Minister Neto said any prediction as to when people displaced by the terrorist raids could return home would be premature.
“Work is being done, and teams mandated by the President of the Republic are assessing the current state of the infrastructures”, he said. “We think the population should return, but we also have to guarantee that they have minimum conditions for their lives. I’m talking about electricity, and the restoration of state institutions, hospitals, schools and so on”.
Minister Neto denied claims that Tanzania was unwilling to help Mozambique fight terrorism. He pointed out that Tanzanian troops were already assisting and playing important roles.
“On several occasions Tanzania has shown solidarity with Mozambique by providing us with relevant information,” he said. “We have been working together, and they have helped us identify enemies who cross the border.”
Tanzania, he said, had sent troops and ships to patrol the coast.
“We think this is significant support,” Minister Neto said. “This country knows why it has to support Mozambique. Tanzania knows that if there is no coordination and cooperation, this terrorist phenomenon could spread to its territory.”
When O Pais mentioned the collapse of the Afghan army as an example of failed foreign military intervention, Minister Neto replied that Mozambique was doing its best to provide equipment and training to its own defence and security forces.
“Defending a territory is the duty of the forces of that territory,” he said. “In the case of Mozambique, the primary responsibility is that of our own defence forces. We have friendly forces with us, who are here to support our struggle, but we are constantly building up the capacity of our own forces to guarantee continuity of the actions that are now being carried out by the friendly forces.”
Minister Neto said this could not happen overnight.
“A period of three months was stipulated for the foreign forces to remain, if there are conditions for them to withdraw then,” he said. “When our capacity has been built up, we will face the situation on our own.” – AIM