Rwanda president lauds troops fighting Mozambique insurgency

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Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Friday visited troops in northern Mozambique sent to help fight jihadist militants, thanking them for their "sacrifices" at the start of a two-day visit to the affected province.

Rwanda in July was the first of several African countries to provide reinforcements to Mozambique's army, overwhelmed by an insurgency in its gas-rich Cabo Delgado province linked to the Islamic State.

Kagame landed in the provincial capital Pemba on Friday morning and was received by Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency tweeted.

The two leaders met and addressed Rwandan troops deployed to the province.

"The work hasn't been easy," Kagame told his soldiers.

"You have done great work alongside Mozambican troops... sacrificed and endured days and nights in the scorching sun, heavy rains," he praised.

Nyusi called the Rwandan soldiers "real heroes" and said Mozambicans were "forever grateful" for "liberating them from rebels".

Foreign forces have helped Mozambique regain ground since militants launched a coordinated assault on the port town of Palma in March, halting multi-billion-dollar gas projects and raising international concern.

Rwanda sent close to 1,000 troops to Mozambique on July 9th.

Members of the 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc have also been dispatching troops -- including almost 1,500 pledged by Mozambique's neighbour and regional powerhouse South Africa.

Mozambican and Rwandan forces notched up a major victory in August, when they drove insurgents out of their de-facto headquarters in the port city of Mocimboa da Praia.

"The rebels better know that we won't sit back and let them return and threaten the lives of the people in Cabo Delgado," Kagame said Friday.

- Attacks continue -

But militants have continued to spread violence.

Local people and security forces have recently reported a string of attacks in Quissanga district, south of Mocimboa da Praia, where militants are believed to have fallen back after the town was retaken.

The latest occurred Thursday evening in the village of Lindi.

"Two people were killed and another two people were injured," said an unnamed police source on Friday, adding that militants had captured several women and girls.

Insurgents also ambushed two buses transporting soldiers later that night, causing at least one death, a traffic police officer told AFP.

The attack took place on a main road that had been closed for two years due to similar incidents, and only recently reopened following the arrival of foreign troops.

In total, at least 10 people have been killed across several villages in Quissanga over the past week, another police officer said.

Some of the victims were beheaded, sources said.

Jihadist militants have been wreaking havoc in Cabo Delgado since 2017, raiding villages and towns in a stated bid to establish an Islamic Caliphate.

The violence has killed more than 3,306 people -- half of them civilians -- and displaced at least 800,000 from their homes over the past four years.

Kagame and Nyusi are scheduled to address the media on Saturday.


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