Maputo — A further two Mozambicans have been shot dead by South African forces in the Kruger National Park where they were poaching wildlife.
A third person killed in the same clash was carrying both Mozambican and South African identity documents and is presumed to have been of dual nationality.
The spokesperson for the General Command of the Mozambican police, Pedro Cossa, confirmed the deaths on Tuesday, and said that the clash had taken place on 17 February.
The bodies of the two Mozambicans have been repatriated to Massingir district, in the southern province of Gaza, while the third victim was buried in South Africa.
Cossa said the Mozambican authorities are in contact with their South African counterparts to clarify the incident, although he recognised that the South Africans have every right to defend their wildlife and their tourism industry.
South Africa has sent a specialist military force into the Kruger Park to combat poachers, whose main target is the park’s substantial rhinoceros population.
Figures published last week show that between 2008 and the beginning of this month, the South African forces killed 279 Mozambicans involved in rhino poaching. A further 300 Mozambicans were detained for poaching between 2008 and the end of 2012.
Some of the Mozambicans killed or arrested have turned out to be members of the Frontier Guard or of the armed forces.
The South Africans have made it very clear that they will use all means at their disposal to defend the Kruger Park from poachers.
Yet the fabulous sums paid in China and Vietnam for rhino horn mean that poachers are still prepared to risk their lives.
Currently rhino horn is fetching 65,000 US dollars a kilo in Vietnam, where it is believed to cure everything from hangovers to cancer.
Some of the Vietnamese smuggling rings are trying to use Mozambican airports to take the horns of slaughtered rhinos to Asia.
On Sunday, a Vietnamese citizen was arrested at Maputo International Airport as a he tried to smuggle six rhino horns, weighing 17 kilos out of the country.