Insurgents’ stronghold Mocimboa da Praia, Northern Mozambique, has been recaptured by Mozambican and Rwandan security forces, both countries said on Sunday.
It is the latest in a growing list of towns and villages retaken by security forces from insurgents in north-eastern Cabo Delgado province.
Cabo Delgado, with gas developments worth nearly $60 billion, is the location of an Islamist insurgency since 2017. Since 2020, militants linked to IS have seized entire towns, including the strategically important Mocimboa da Praia.
The Rwandan government deployed a 1,000-strong force to Mozambique last month to fight the insurgents alongside Mozambique’s troops and troops of the 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Mocimboa da Praia previously served as the main airport for international workers flying into the gas development areas and its port is used for cargo deliveries.
Col Ronald Rwivanga, Rwanda Defence Force’s spokesperson, said the insurgents, who have fled to nearby forests, were greatly weakened by losing Mocimboa da Praia.
“They have held it for nearly a year, and it was a stronghold for their supplies. It was a critical port for their survival. Losing it is going to be a significant blow to their ability to maintain the insurgency,” Rwivanga said.
He added that the army would remain in the recaptured areas until stability returns.
On the number of fatalities, Rwivanga didn’t give a figure, saying “we are just waiting for the final count but generally speaking the enemy had many casualties.”
Colonel Omar Saranga, the spokesman for the Mozambican Ministry of Defence, said that the forces have taken control of public and private infrastructure, including government buildings, the port, airport, hospital, markets and catering establishments.
The army has also regained control of Awasse – a small but also strategic settlement near Mocimboa da Praia.
Almost 800,000 people have been displaced in Cabo Delgado and the fighting has brought a $20 billion natural gas project led by oil giant Total to a halt.
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