Maputo — Six members of the Mozambican riot police (FIR) have died in clashes between the defence and security forces and gunmen of the former rebel movement Renamo, in Homoine district, in the southern province of Inhambane, according to a report in Wednesday's issue of the independent newsheet “Mediafax”.
The clashes took place in the administrative post of Pembe, where Renamo is trying to re-establish a base at Nhamungue, where it had its headquarters for all of Inhambane during the closing years of the war of destabilisation.
There were also clashes in the neighbouring locality of Catine.
The government forces moved to dislodge the Renamo gunmen in the early morning of Tuesday.
“Mediafax” adds that in addition to the six deaths, eight injured police agents were taken to the Chicuque rural hospital in Maxixe district.
As for Renamo losses, the independent television station STV reported that two Renamo members died, but “Mediafax” only speaks of the deaths of two civilians.
STV reports that people have fled from all the villages in Pembe. They have headed for the district capital, Homoine town, in vehicles if possible, on foot if not. The Homoine authorities are thus faced with a wave of displaced people, with nowhere to sleep and little to eat.
Initially, the Inhambane provincial government denied the presence of a Renamo force in Homoine. Both the spokesperson for the provincial police command, Delcir Mariquel, and provincial governor Agostinho Trinta, went on record as saying the only problem they knew of in Homoine was cattle rustling.
But on Tuesday, the Diretcor of Defence Policy in the Ministry of Defence, Col Cristovao Chume, confirmed that Renamo gunmen were indeed in Homoine, and some of them had been arrested.
“Renamo has moved men into Inhambane, particularly into Homoine, and has put psychological pressure on people living there”, so that they were abandoning their homes in panic, said Chume.
He made it clear that the government intended to prevent Renamo from establishing any bases in Homoine. “The defence and security forces are on the ground in Homoine, in order to take measures that will restore life in the district to normal”.