Mozambique: One Dead in Ambush in Manica

Maputo — Chimoio (Mozambique), 10 Dec (AIM) - One person died and another was seriously injured in an armed attack against a bus on Monday night on Mozambique's main north-south highway (EN1) in the area of Muda-Serracao, in Gondola district, in the central province of Manica.

The bus, owned by the "Entre Rios" transport company, was on its way from Maputo to Quelimane, capital of Zambezia province. The man who lost his life had boarded the bus in Muxungue, in Sofala province, less than 100 kilometres from the site of the ambush.

The fare collector was severely injured, and was taken to the Manica provincial hospital in Chimoio. From a hospital source, AIM learnt that his condition is regarded as critical. He is likely to be transferred to Beira Central Hospital for surgery.

The driver told reporters that, as the bus reached Muda-Serracao, it came under a hail of bullets fired by heavily armed and uniformed men. Although bullets smashed into the windscreen and at least one of the tyres, the driver did not stop, but drove through the ambush.

The Manica provincial command of the Mozambican police claimed that, despite the attack, security is guaranteed along EN1 and along the second main road running through the province, the Beira-Zimbabwe highway.

However the bus driver told reporters that the ambush took place in between two police positions. The danger should have been well known to the police, since there have been several recent attacks in the Muda Serracao region.

Manica police spokesperson Mateus Mindu told AIM "our forces are on the ground to guarantee order and security on the public highway. We have begun a pursuit of these criminals. We began as soon as we received information of the attack".

As in all recent attacks in Manica and Sofala, the police have blamed "Renamo armed men", but without specifying which faction of the country's main opposition party they mean.

Renamo is suffering an internal crisis, with a dissident group splitting away to form what it calls the "Renamo Military Junta", which has declared its leader, Mariano Nhongo, to be the true President of Renamo. The Junta does not recognise the elected Renamo leader, Ossufo Momade, or the peace agreement he signed with President Filipe Nyusi in August.

It is generally believed that the Junta is responsible for the attacks on the roads, and Momade has indignantly denied that the mainstream of Renamo has anything to do with the ambushes.

Meanwhile, according to a report in Tuesday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias", the Attorney-General's Office (PGR) has opened 20 case files on the Manica and Sofala ambushes, mostly against "persons unknown" - though in a few cases members of the armed group have been arrested.

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