MAPUTO. – A joint Mozambique and Rwanda military force in Cabo Delgado has searched 3 000 houses in a village in Mocímboa da Praia which was under rebel control for more than a year, as part of “clean-up operations”, an official has said.
Mocímboa da Praia is located 70km south of the construction area of the natural TotalEnergies-led gas project in Afungi, Palma.
Cabo Delgado province is rich in natural gas, but has been terrorized since 2017 by armed rebels, with some attacks claimed by the Islamic State extremist group.
The insurgence has caused more than 3 000 deaths and displaced more than 817 000 people. An offensive by government troops in July last year, supported by Rwandan forces and, later, those from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), routed the rebels and recovered the town.
“During patrol operations, we found uniforms of the Defence and Security Forces, suspected to have been used by the rebels to infiltrate the ranks of government forces, and other abandoned goods in several houses,” provincial police commander Alberto Napovo told the national broadcaster.
Over the more than a year that it was in the hands of rebels, Mocímboa da Praia, one of the few urban areas in northern Cabo Delgado, was looted, and almost all public and private infrastructure was destroyed, as well as energy, water and communication systems.
About 62 000 people, almost the entire population, left the coastal village due to the conflict over the last four years, starting with the mass flight in response to the intensification of rebel actions in June, 2020.
“The entire area of jurisdiction of Mocímboa da Praia is controlled by the joint force, and every day we patrol areas where we suspect that there may be enemy activity,” said Napovo, promising “close surveillance” as residents start returning home.
The coastal town, where armed groups carried out their first attack in October, 2017, had long been described as a rebel “base”
During their meeting in Malawi on Wednesday, SADC leaders agreed to extend the military force in Mozambique by three months to provide support in fighting terrorists in Cabo Delgado. – Aim-New Ziana