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Rwanda Troops in Mozambique Claim Progress Against Jihadists


FILE - Rwandan military troops depart for Mozambique to help the country combat an escalating Islamic State-linked insurgency that threatens its stability, at the Kigali International Airport in Kigali, Rwanda July 10, 2021.

Rwandan forces in Mozambique, deployed less than a month ago to help battle jihadists, said Thursday 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 Defense 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 August 12, 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 July 9, following an April visit to Kigali by Mozambican leader Filipe Nyusi.

Weeks after Rwanda rolled in, neighboring 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 July 26, deploying 296 soldiers. President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who chairs SADC's defense and security arm, has been outspoken on the urgent need for regional stability.

Regional powerhouse and immediate neighbor, South Africa announced on July 28 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 August 6, 20 specialized military air force personnel while Namibia will contribute N$5.8 million (about $400,000) towards the anti-insurgency offensive.

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.

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