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Mozambican Interior Minister Basilio Monteiro has promised to reintroduce military escorts on some stretches of the country’s main north-south highway (EN1) following a string of ambushes against buses and trucks using the road in the central provinces of Manica and Sofala.
Monteiro made the announcement on Wednesday after visiting units of the defence and security forces stationed in the Sofala district of Chibabava, where the latest ambush occurred on Tuesday.
He also announced that patrols would be stepped up along the entire length of the road in Manica and Sofala, between the Save and the Zambezi rivers, in order to abort any attempted attacks.
“We have decided to increase motorised patrols along the entire road. We shall do this, mixed patrols and other tactical measures which, as I hope you will understand, we shall keep secret”, Monteiro told reporters.
He added that the government’s priority is to restore calm. He said the defence and security forces are pursuing the attacks “in depth and in all likely directions. These measures are under way. Our presence will increase these operations”.
Military escorts in Sofala became necessary when the rebel movement Renamo resumed its attacks on the roads in 2013, but were suspended when the then leader of Renamo, the late Afonso Dhlakama, signed an agreement on cessation of hostilities in September 2014.
This agreement broke down after the 2014 elections, but in late December 2016, Dhlakama announced a ceasefire, and the mainstream of Renamo says it is still respecting that ceasefire. The recent attacks are believed to be the work of the breakaway group calling itself the “Renamo Military Junta”, which denounces the elected Renamo leader, Ossufo Momade, as “a traitor”.
Among the places in Chibabava visited by Monteiro was Mutindiri, where the Tuesday ambush occurred, in which the raiders set a bus and two trucks on fire. Eye-witnesses, including the bus driver, told reporters that ten people died in the attack and a further nine were injured.
But Monteiro denied there had been any deaths or injuries. “Yes, there was an attack”, he said, “but there’s no record that anyone was killed or injured. Armed individuals stopped the vehicles and ordered the passengers out. They demanded money and goods from them. Then they set the vehicles on fire. So we don’t confirm any deaths or injuries”.
Monteiro admitted that there have been failings by the units that should patrol the road and repel any attack. He urged members of the public to remain vigilant and denounced any unusual movement that might occur in their communities.
“The public must be attentive and remain in contact with the police”, he said. “Only thus can we feel safe and end the violence”.Source: AIM
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