Troops rescue elderly women, children from Mozambique insurgents

Troops sent by several African countries since July have helped the army in Mozambique's gas-rich Cabo Delgado to push back Islamic State-linked militants who have been terrorising the province since 2017.

FILE: Rwandan soldiers from Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) and Rwandan policemen prepare to board a "Rwandair" plane for a military mission to Mozambique at Kanombe Airport, Kigali, Rwanda on 10 July 2021. Picture: AFP

MAPUTO - Mozambican troops have rescued dozens of civilians from a northern district recently recovered from jihadists, a local official said Thursday, as military forces backed by foreign soldiers gain ground against the insurgents.

Troops sent by several African countries since July have helped the army in Mozambique's gas-rich Cabo Delgado to push back Islamic State-linked militants who have been terrorising the province since 2017.

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

A joint operation with Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) this week rescued 87 people from the town and brought them to safety in the provincial capital Pemba.

Cabo Delgado governor Valige Tauabo told AFP the group was mainly made up of elderly women and children.

"I confirm the rescue of 87 people in Mocimboa da Praia (district) this week," he told AFP via telephone on Thursday.

The rescued are staying with family members or in shelter camps, he said.

Locally referred to as Al-Shabab, Mozambique's insurgents have been raiding towns and villages in Cabo Delgado for four years in a bid to establish an Islamist caliphate.

The group grew bolder last year, escalating attacks that culminated in a brazen assault on natural gas hub town of Palma in March.

This week much needed humanitarian aid reached the coastal town for the first time since it was overrun by jihadists six months ago.

Despite the gains made in smoking out the insurgents, suspected militants last week beheaded five civilians in the village of Namaluco, around 150 kilometres (about 90 miles) south of Palma, according to military and local sources.

The violence in Mozambique 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.

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