Maputo — The Mozambican armed forces (FADM) captured eight gunmen of the former rebel movement Renamo in their operations earlier this week in Napome, in the district of Rapale, about 50 kilometres from the northern city of Nampula.
The Nampula police showed the eight to journalists on Thursday. They said they were all former Renamo guerrillas, demobilised in 1994, and then employed to protect the house of Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama in the Nampula street of Rua das Flores.
Dhlakama left Nampula over a year ago, and went to live in a bush camp in Satunjira, in the central district of Gorongosa. But the guards continued to protect the empty Nampula house.
One of the eight, Gasten Vasco, told the independent television station STV that the entire Renamo contingent in Rua das Flores, consisting of 18 men, left the city on 22 October, the day after the FADM occupied the Satunjira base. He said they went to Napome on the instructions of a Renamo officer he named as “major Magaia”.
“We left on foot at night”, Vasco said, “but our uniforms, food and AK-47 rifles were taken in a vehicle”.
Another of those detained, Valentim Antonio, contradicted this version, since he said he went by car. Hesaid he was mobilized to leave the city by Pinoca Luxo, the head of the Renamo group in the Nampula Provincial Assembly. He claimed that Luxo told him he was going to attend a meeting at Natakire, on the outskirts of the city, but instead he was taken much further, to Napome.
Luxo has also been detained. He claimed that he did not know the men he was transporting were from Renamo - which, given his position inside Renamo, seems rather unlikely.
If Vasco's story is true, then there are only 10 armed Renamo men left in Rapale. But 10 men can still do very considerable damage - as was shown on Tuesday night when this group burnt a truck, killed its driver and abducted ten of the passengers the vehicle was carrying.