Rwandan forces deployed last month to help Mozambique’s army battle jihadists said Sunday they had recaptured control of the key northern port of Mocimboa da Praia from the extremist militants.
"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 Rwandan Defence Forces said in a tweet.
Force spokesman colonel Ronald Rwivanga confirmed this to the French AFP news agency, saying Mocimboa da Praia "has fallen".
The port town, from where the first Islamist attacks were staged in October 2017, has since last year become the de facto headquarters of the Islamic State-linked extremists, locally referred to as Al-Shabab.
Mocimboa da Praia "was the last stronghold of the insurgents, marking the end of the first phase of counter-insurgency operations which is dislodging insurgents from the stronghold," Rwivanga said in a text message.
Rwanda sent in 1,000 troops last month to shore up Mozambican military forces that have been struggling to regain control over the northern Cabo Delgado province, which is home to one of Africa’s biggest liquefied natural gas projects.
The forces last week claimed their first success since deploying, saying they had helped the Mozambique army regain control of Awasse — a small but strategic settlement near Mocimboa da Praia.
EU and SADC both commit resources
"We will continue with security operations to completely pacify those areas and allow Mozambican and Rwandan forces to conduct stabilisation operations as (the displaced) return home and business continues," added Rwivanga.
The Rwandan troops deployed on 9 July, following an April visit to Kigali by Mozambican leader Filipe Nyusi.
They were followed weeks later by forces from neighbouring countries, who are deploying under the aegis of the 16-member regional bloc, the Southern African Development Community, SADC.
The European Union on 12 July formally established a military mission for Mozambique to help train troops battling the jihadists.