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Rwandan, Mozambican troops capture rebel stronghold in Cabo Delgado

In this image made from video, Rwandan soldiers gather at the airport in Mocimboa da Praia, Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique, Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. Fresh from recapturing the strategic northern Mozambican port of Mocimboa da Praia held by Islamic extremist rebels for a year, Rwandan and Mozambican troops say they are pursuing the insurgents into the surrounding areas. (AP Photo/Marc Hoogsteyns)
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RUSTENBURG- The town of Mocimboa da Praia, a stronghold for rebels in northern Mozambique, has been recaptured, the Rwanda Defence Force said.

“The port city of Mocimboa da Praia, a major stronghold of the insurgency for more than two years, has been captured by Rwandan and Mozambican security forces. The city also holds the district headquarters and Airport,” the Rwanda Defence Force said in a Twitter post on Sunday, without giving more details of how the town was captured.

Commander of the Mozambique Armed Defence Forces Major-General Christorao Arthur told the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency that freeing Mocimboa da Praia was the first stage, the next stage being to free Cabo Delgado from the rebels.

The broadcaster on Tuesday displayed footage of Rwandan and Mozambican soldiers clearing the roads and highways after rebels were smoked out of Mocimboa da Praia.

Rwandan forces two weeks ago said they had killed at least 14 rebels in a space of four days, while a Rwandan soldier was lightly injured during the skirmish.

Rwanda deployed a joint force of 1,000 soldiers and police officers to Mozambique to quell insurgents’ attack on Cabo Delgado.

“The Rwandan contingent will support efforts to restore Mozambican state authority by conducting combat and security operations, as well as stabilisation and security sector reform,” the Rwandan government said when sending off the troops to Mozambique.

Rwandan forces were deployed according to an agreement between Mozambique and Rwanda. Their deployment does not fall under the Southern African Development Community (SADC) agreement.

Mozambique has a separate agreement with the European Union (EU) to train and support the Mozambican armed forces in protecting the civilian population and restoring safety and security in the Cabo Delgado province.

The mission will provide military training, including operational preparation, specialised training on counterterrorism, and training and education on the protection of civilians and compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights law.

The SADC resolved in June to deploy troops to Mozambique in a push to repel terrorists and violent extremists in Cabo Delgado.

This was after Islamic State-backed terrorists launched an attack on the town of Palma in the northern province of Cabo Delgado on March 24, killing at least 12 people, including a South African and a Zimbabwean, and displacing more than 100,000 people who fled the area.

Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi, launched the region’s mission on Monday in Pemba.

He said the peacekeeping mission in Mozambique was the first major mission planned and executed by the SADC.