Maputo — Mozambican Interior Minister Amade Miquidade said on Wednesday that the defence and security forces are gaining ground in their battle against islamist terrorists in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
Speaking in the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, during a question and answer session between the deputies and the government, Miquidade recognised that the situation in the province "remains complex".
He said this complexity is because the terrorists have switched to guerrilla tactics, operating in small groups, and using the local population as human shields.
"Our forces are gaining ground", Miquidade claimed, "and bit by bit security is returning. We shall work persistently until final victory".
It was not the armd forces who were on the run. "In Mozambique, those who are fleeing and those who are hiding are the terrorists", declared Miquidade. "They are the armed men who, in a furtive and treacherous manner, are attacking and kidnapping the population and burning their houses".
The Minister noted that the security situation in Mozambique has been recognised in SADC (Southern African Development Community), leading to a declaration last week of "active solidarity with Mozambique", by the SADC defence and security body.
He added that Mozambique is undertaking various forms of cooperation within SADC to protect the public and to prevent, dissuade and punish attacks by "extremists and terrorists".
Miquidade claimed that the defence and security forces are hunting down, not only the terrorists who are destabilising Cabo Delgado, but also the armed gangs who operate in the central provinces of Manica and Sofala, and owe allegiance to the self-styled "Renamo Military Junta".
"Right now, the enemy is fleeing and looking for hideouts", he said. "But we are on their trail, particularly in remote areas".
A key priority, said Miquidade, "is to cut the lines of logistical and military supplies to the enemy - in terms of weapons, food, transport, communications, as well as to break up their strategies for making new recruits".
The Minister added that some of the terrorists are wearing uniforms of the Mozambican defence forces and are using drones for reconnaissance. They are also enticing local religious leaders onto their side, and are using mosques to concentrate supporters.
"They are breaking into small groups and when they are attacked by our forces, they step up acts of retaliation and vengeance against the population", he said. He accused the terrorists of using new recruits as human shields, and to carry away goods looted from villages.
Miquidade did not deal with the humanitarian crisis caused by the terrorist raids. According to a report from the NGO, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), about 10,000 people driven out of their villages in Quissanga and Metuge districts by the terrorists are now living in three government-run accommodation centres.
These displaced people complain of a shortage of food and of shelter. There are not enough tents for all the displaced, some of whom are obliged to sleep in the open.