Maputo — The Mozambican state is strong enough to fight against terrorism in Mozambique, particularly in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, where a jihadist group with ties to the self-styled “Islamic State” is operating, declared Defence Minister Jaime Neto on Thursday.
Speaking at a Maputo press conference with Interior Minister Amade Miquidade, Neto said that the foreign aid Mozambique needed is surveillance of the borders “to prevent bandits from entering our territory”.
He denied that the terrorists have effective control over the town and port of Mocimboa da Praia. What had happened, he claimed, was that terrorist groups had infiltrated some neighbourhoods in the town.
They had slipped into the town disguised as civilians, and Neto admitted that they had received support from some of the local population. Then, from positions inside the town, they attacked the units of the defence and security forces stationed in Mocimboa da Praia.
“The result was the vandalisation of the infrastructures of Mocimboa town”, said Neto. “Right now the defence and security forces are trying to control the situation. The situation remains tense and fluid, and the entire Mozambican state should be committed to normalising the lives of people who have been so devastated by terror”.
He stressed that the Mozambican forces “have shown courage, a spirit of sacrifice and combative morale”.
But despite all the efforts of the government’s forces “the bandits are there”, Neto admitted. Despite the losses they had suffered, in clashes with Mozambican naval forces, the terrorists were still in Mocimboa da Praia port, and had received reinforcements in men and material from bases outside Mozambique. If true, these reinforcements could only have reached Mocimboa da Praia by sea, and presumably from Tanzania (although the Tanzanian armed forces say they have launched an offensive to drive bandits out of forested areas on the border with Mozambique).
Neto guaranteed that every effort will be made to ensure that all of Mocimboa da Praia town is liberated. He said the Mozambican state will take all necessary measures to ensure that the situation in the northern districts of Cabo Delgado is not repeated anywhere else in the country.
The government’s forces will continue to defend Mozambican sovereignty, he pledged, and would fight to prevent Cabo Delgado becoming “a generalised stage of disorder, chaos and the violation of the most elementary human rights”.
Fighting has been going on in and around Mocimboa da Praia since 6 August. Piecing together reports from various sources, it seems that the Mozambican forces were obliged to retreat when they ran out of ammunition.
Miquidade ruled out declaring a state of siege in Cabo Delgado. “We’re not even close to declaring a state of siege”, he told the reporters.
“Fighting is going in various parts of Mocimbioa da Praia and in surrounding areas”, he said, but the scenario was not such as to justify declaring a state of siege.