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At least eight military killed in Macomia ambush

Security forces in Cabo Delgado suffered their bloodiest incident since January

Insurgents celebrate killing at least eight members of the security forces at Cobre in a video published by Amaq news agency

Insurgents killed at least eight soldiers, apparently members of the Mozambican Armed Defence Forces (FADM), on Friday in an ambush around the village of Cobre, near the coast of Macomia district in Cabo Delgado province.

Islamic State-affiliated (IS) news agency Amaq reported on Sunday that insurgents tracked down and killed “at least 10 Rwandan and Mozambican forces” who were trying to infiltrate an insurgent base. The number of casualties has not yet been independently confirmed but photos shared by IS on social media show eight dead bodies. IS also claimed to have captured one soldier who features in the photos wearing the uniform of a FADM commando, as well as eight medium machine guns, five rocket launchers, and three mortars.

Several of those killed appear to be wearing the uniforms of the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) but they likely belong to the European Union-trained Quick Reaction Force (QRF), which looks similar. The casualties who escaped and were treated at hospital in Pemba were all Mozambican, a local source told Zitamar.

Brigadier General Ronald Rwivanga of the RDF categorically denied the IS claim that Rwandans were killed, telling Zitamar this was “very fake news.”

A counter-insurgency operation was launched in Macomia on 27 June to dislodge the insurgents from the coast, particularly around the administrative post of Quiterajo, where they have circulated largely unchallenged for several months. Sources close to the security forces estimate there are between 200-400 insurgent fighters in this area.

Zitamar understands from local sources that the FADM soldiers killed on Friday were on a mission to attack an insurgent base near the Messalo river about 25km north of Cobre and were surrounded on their way back to headquarters.  

Following the attack, a large column of 30 vehicles of the South African National Defence Force was reported moving to reinforce Macomia on 4 July, according to Carta de Moçambique.

The ambush on Friday marks the end of a relatively peaceful few months in Cabo Delgado. It saw the largest number of security forces casualties of any incident since insurgents beheaded at least 14 members of the Naparama local militia in Meluco district on 31 January. The number of reported fatalities in the conflict has dropped precipitously this year, from 79 in the month of January, to 19 in May.