Renamo rebels kill seven Mozambique soldiers: local media

MAPUTO (Reuters) - Suspected Renamo guerrillas killed seven Mozambican soldiers in an ambush on Thursday near the former rebel group's remote mountain hideout, local media said, the latest flare-up in a simmering insurgency. Ministry of Defense spokesman Cristovao Chume confirmed the attack on a military patrol near Gorongosa, in the middle of the war-scarred southern African nation, but denied that any soldiers had been killed. He told reporters two Renamo militiamen had been killed in an exchange of fire. Mozambique has been one of Africa's fastest-growing economies in the last three years, largely because of a flood of investment into its coal and off-shore natural gas sectors. However, sporadic clashes between Renamo and government forces this year have cast a shadow over the boom, although the chances are remote of a return to the all-out civil war that ended in 1992 after the deaths of a million people. Renamo raids in April and June in the central province of Sofala killed at least 11 soldiers and police and six civilians, and forced a temporary suspension of some coal exports to the coast by rail. Road traffic was also affected and tourist cancellations ensued. Renamo was formed as an anti-communist rebel group in the 1970s by the secret service of white-ruled Rhodesia, and has been Mozambique's main opposition party since the end of its 16-year post-independence conflict with the ruling Frelimo party. Analysts say this year's attacks are a reaction to it being pushed into political and economic obscurity by Frelimo, which is expected to dominate municipal elections due next month and nationwide elections in just over a year. (Reporting by Manuel Mucari; writing by Ed Cropley; editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Tom Pfeiffer)