MAPUTO (Reuters) - Southern African nations on Wednesday approved the deployment of troops to Mozambique to help the country combat an escalating Islamic State-linked insurgency that threatens stability in the relatively peaceful region, the bloc's executive secretary said.
The 16-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been grappling with how to respond to the conflict, which began in October 2017 and has since killed thousands on all sides.
Almost 800,000 people have been displaced and the fighting has bought a $20 billion gas project led by oil giant Total to a grinding halt.
SADC has approved the deployment of its standby force, Stergomena Lawrence Tax said, reading out a communique following a meeting of the bloc's leaders in Mozambique's capital Maputo. The standby force is part of a regional defence pact that allows military intervention to prevent the spread of conflict.
The communique provided no further details on how many troops would be involved, when they would be deployed or what their role would be, adding only that humanitarian aid must be channelled to those most in need.
The decision brings to an end months of deliberation and disagreement among the bloc about what is needed to stem an insurgency that threatens to open up southern Africa's first jihadi front.
While some members, like South Africa, have pushed for military action, others were reportedly more reticent. Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi himself has historically been resistant to foreign boots on the ground.
(Reporting by Manuel Mucari; Writing by Emma Rumney; Editing by Toby Chopra and Alison Williams)