JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Rwanda on Friday said it would immediately deploy 1,000 members of its armed forces and police to northern Mozambique to help battle an Islamic extremist insurgency that has caused than 700,000 residents to flee for their lives.
Rwanda’s government said its forces will “support efforts to restore Mozambican state authority by conducting combat and security operations.”
The Rwandans will be joined by a deployment from the 16-nation Southern African Development Community which is to begin on July 15, according to a letter from SADC’s executive secretary to the United Nations secretary-general and seen by The Associated Press. The SADC mission will last for three months and could be extended, the letter said.
The regional body last month approved a $12 million budget for the deployment of the Standby Force Mission for Mozambique. Earlier this year, military experts from the group recommended that the regional body send about 3,000 soldiers with arms, helicopters, airplanes and naval capacity.
The Rwandan and regional interventions come as the insurgent attacks in northern Cabo Delgado province intensify, with rebels targeting villages and islands and beheading some residents. Witnesses have said the fighters are looting and warning residents to leave or be killed.
The violence in northern Mozambique is blamed for the deaths of more than 2,000 people. The World Food Program has warned of a growing hunger crisis as nearly 1 million people need food aid.
The insurgency in northern Mozambique started in Cabo Delgado province in 2017 and has grown rapidly in the past year. The insurgents have held the port of Mocimboa da Praia since August and have repeatedly attacked the strategic center of Palma, forcing the French energy firm Total to suspend its $20 billion liquified natural gas project.
Bowker reported from Belgrade, Serbia.
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