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Rwanda president visits troops fighting Mozambique insurgency

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Rwanda president visits troops fighting Mozambique insurgency

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame on Friday began a two-day visit to Mozambique’s insurgent-hit north, where he has sent 1,000 troops to help local soldiers fight jihadist militants.

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, the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency tweeted in the Kinyarwanda language.

One of the activities planned during his two-day visit will be meeting the armed forces and police “sent to Cabo Delgado to restore peace”, it added.

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

Alongside Rwanda, members of the 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc have also been despatching troops — including almost 1,500 pledged by Mozambique’s neighbour and regional powerhouse South Africa.

The European Union has meanwhile set up a military mission for Mozambique to help train its armed forces.

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.

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

But militants have continued to spread violence.

Some reportedly beheaded five civilians in the village of Namaluco last week, around 150 kilometres (about 90 miles) south of Palma, according to military and local sources.

Kagame and Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi are scheduled to address the media on Friday evening.

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