Rwanda will today start the deployment of 1,000 members of its police and armed forces to Cabo Delgado to help the Mozambique government combat the violent insurgency in the north of the province.
The troops will "support efforts to restore Mozambican state authority by conducting combat and security operations, as well as stabilisation and security-sector reform (SSR)," according to a statement from the Rwandan government.
Rwanda's forces will work alongside Mozambique's defence and security forces and a deployment from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which is due to begin on 15 July, according to a letter apparently sent by SADC's executive secretary to the secretary-general of the United Nations on 7 July, seen by Zitamar News. A spokesperson for SADC in Botswana was unable to comment on the letter when contacted by Zitamar on Friday, directing us to call another number which was not answered.
The SADC mission will last for a period of three months, which can be extended depending on how the situation evolves, according to the letter signed by SADC executive secretary Stergomena Tax and addressed to UN chief António Guterres.
The mission aims to support Mozambique to combat acts of terrorism and extremist violence, and restore law and order in affected areas of Cabo Delgado, the letter said.
It is not clear which forces will be part of this first mission and what kind of support they will provide.
The SADC approved a $12m budget for the deployment of the Standby Force Mission for Mozambique at the end of June. Contributions from the regional body's member states were due to be received by today, 9 July.
The intervention comes amid an intensification and spreading of insurgent attacks. Last Friday, insurgents tried to attack the town of Diaca, in the district of Mocimboa da Praia, but were repelled by the local military position that had been alerted by the population who saw the insurgents arriving in four vehicles, a military source told Zitamar News.
On the same day, another insurgent group dressed in the uniforms of government forces killed seven people in Namande, Muidumbe district, in an attack that started around 2pm, displaced people from Muidumbe now living in Pemba, told Zitamar after speaking with family members who are still in Namande.
Three people were shot dead and four were beheaded, they said, adding that there are suspected casualties among the insurgents too following an exchange of fire with government forces. People are also missing, and it is not known whether they are dead, taking refuge in the bush or in the custody of the insurgents.
The situation caused panic in the town of Mueda, 25km from Namande, where many people are seeking refuge. On average more than 100 people arrive in the town each day from Palma, a town close to the LNG project site, which has been the scene of violence by insurgents and government forces since insurgents overran it on 24 March.
Also on Friday, a third insurgent group attacked the island of Quifula and Magundula, near Pangane in Macomia district, where they seized goods from the population, including a wide range of seafood, a fisherman from Macomia told Zitamar. In the early evening of the same Friday, the islanders of Matemo saw many flames on the mainland, assuming they were burning huts. For fear of attack, they slept in the bush, a local resident told Zitamar.
In Palma, the insurgents are warning the population to leave the area, and threatening to kill those who disobey the order, a displaced person from that district told Zitamar upon arriving in Mueda.
Citizens also live in fear of the Defense and Security Forces in the town. Officers are capturing innocent civilians in Palma town and nearby Quitunda village on charges of belonging to the insurgent group, a source in Quitunda told Zitamar. The operation started two months ago and some civilians who were recently released reported that they had been interrogated at the military barracks, said the source. He added that last week more civilians were captured in Quitunda market.
This article was produced by Zitamar and Mediafax under the Cabo Ligado project, in collaboration with ACLED. The contents of the article are the sole responsibility of Zitamar News.