Regional troops to stay in Mozambique indefinitely

A military convoy of South Africa National Defence Forces rides along a dirt road in the Maringanha district in Pemba, Mozambique. Alfredo Zuniga - AFP

Southern African troops have driven jihadists out of northern Mozambique but will stay in the country indefinitely to ensure the situation remains under control, a regional bloc said Thursday.

“Terrorism is still a major threat in Mozambique,” said Mpho Molomo, head of the Southern African Development Community’s mission in Mozambique.

Last week, SADC extended its mission by 90 days, but Molomo said that despite the recent military gains, southern African troops will remain for an “undetermined period until the situation on the ground is under control”.

The 16-nation SADC bloc has never revealed how many troops have been deployed to Mozambique since the mission began in July. Rwanda separately has sent in 1 000 soldiers credited with leading the military gains.

SADC will deploy more land forces, Molomo said, even as militants have been driven from Cabo Delgado province.

He said: “They have dispersed in all directions.”

“It is rumoured some may have gone into neighbouring Tanzania, some in other provinces like Niassa and Nampula,” he added.

The military operation has focused on gas-rich Cabo Delgado, which has suffered attacks by Islamic State-linked militants for the past four years.

The insurgency has claimed at least 3 340 lives and displaced more than 800 000 people.

The militants locally known as Al-Shabab – though they have no known link to the jihadist group of a similar name operating in Somalia – are fighting to establish a caliphate.

Their first coordinated attacks targeted police stations on 5 October 2017.

The violence has disrupted major gas exploration projects and raised fears it could spread to neighbouring countries.

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