Portugal will send 60 more soldiers to Mozambique as part of a new cooperation agreement aimed at helping the southern African country to fight insurgency, the Portuguese defence minister has said.
Mr João Cravinho made the announcement on Monday after the signing of the framework cooperation agreement between Lisbon and Maputo with his African counterpart Mr Jaime Neto.
Sixty members of the Portuguese special forces are already training soldiers in Mozambique, following the March 24 attack in the village of Palma, Cabo Delgado, in the northern part of the country.
The Monday agreement, which runs until 2026, allows Portugal to train Mozambican soldiers on fighting insurgency, sharing intelligence and helping the country using drones to track insurgents’ movement.
“The international community should not turn its back on Mozambique,” Mr Neto said.
Mozambique got impendence from Portugal in 1975, and both countries have cooperated in various projects since 1988.
Mozambique is currently hit with terrorist attacks.
The attacks began in October 2017 on police stations in Mocimboa da Praia District, then spread to other districts in the northern part of Cabo Delgado, notably in Macomia, Palma and Nangade.
Islamic State-linked militants launched attacks on the northeastern coastal town of Palma on March 24, ransacked buildings and beheaded civilians. Thousands of people fled into the surrounding forest. The attack has seen a surge in the number of refugees fleeing the violence in the area.
Known locally as Al-Shabaab – but with no relation to the Somali group of the same name – the militants in Cabo Delgado have launched a series of brazen raids on towns and villages in an apparent bid to establish an Islamic caliphate.
The US has also helped Mozambique with training of defence personnel to fight terrorism.
On Wednesday, US Ambassador to Maputo, Dennis Hearne, along with the country’s defence minister Mr Neto commemorated in Maputo the conclusion of a Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) training exercise opened in March.
A second JCET training exercise is expected in July 2021.
“Twenty years since the last JCET exercise in Mozambique, this training programme represents the strengthening relationship between the United States of America and the Republic of Mozambique” Mr Hearne said.
“As I witnessed the impressive battlefield skills during a demonstration at the training facility, I was proud of the work our countrymen were able to accomplish together.”
The US Special Operations Forces trained Mozambican marines for two months on tactical skills, combat casualty care, marksmanship, and executing a mission while avoiding damage to civilians and property.
“This training exercise reflects the US Government’s commitment to support the Government of Mozambique’s efforts to defeat ISIS with a holistic strategy that includes socio-economic development, community resilience programmes, and security assistance.
“The US prioritises the respect for human rights, protection of civilians, and engagement with civil society in all components of US security assistance. They are foundational to effectively counter the Islamic State in Mozambique.”
Last week, the European Union said it was preparing to send soldiers to Mozambique to help fighting insurgency.