Maputo — The Rwandan armed forces, who are supporting the Mozambican defence and security forces in their battle against islamist terrorists in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, say they are closing in on the town of Mocimboa da Praia, held by the jihadists since August 2020.
At the end of July, Mozambican and Rwandan forces retook the small town of Awasse, which opened the road to Mocimboa da Praia.
Interviewed by the French News Agency, AFP, the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) spokesperson, Col Ronald Rwivanga, said "We are progressing well in Cabo Delgado province. "We have registered successes on two fronts and are closing in Mocimboa da Praia."
Rwivanga said the terrorists had fled Awasse to other small towns near Mocimboa da Praia "but we are closing in on them".
"Everything is going as planned", he added. He estimated the number of enemy casualties at 70, but warned this could be an underestimate.
"When we talk about numbers, these are the ones we see physically. The reports coming to us say that the insurgents are taking away their fighters who were killed in combat, so the possibility is that the number is much higher than what we have seen," he explained.
"The numbers we project and the equipment we have confiscated is what we mainly see with our eyes. So much more may have happened that we have not seen," he said.
Rwivanga added that the Rwandan troops have mostly been facing "small groups" that "are everywhere". He said these groups were using "rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and anti-aircraft guns" and move around easily on motorbikes. Rwandan troops have confiscated some of this equipment after clashes with the terrorist groups.
Mocimboa da Praia is the only district capital in the hands of the jihadists. It was also the site of their first operation, on 5 October 2017, when they attacked police facilities in the town.
Rwanda has committed 1,000 soldiers and police to the conflict. These men arrived in Cabo Delgado on 9 July, and went into combat almost immediately.
By the end of July forces from member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) were beginning to deploy. South Africa is providing the largest contingent, of 1,495 troops.
Botswana is deploying 296 soldiers, while Angola has promised 20 specialist air force instructors. Zimbabwe says it will send 304 non-combatant troops to help train the Mozambican forces.
Tanzania sent a large cargo plane which landed in the Cabo Delgado provincial capital, Pemba, last Sunday to unload vehicles and other military equipment. The details of this equipment have not been made public.