Mozambique government blames fresh attack on former rebels

Report
from Agence France-Presse
Published on 26 Oct 2013

10/26/2013 18:44 GMT

by Orfeu de Sa Lisboa

MAPUTO, October 26, 2013 (AFP) - Mozambique's presidency on Saturday blamed former rebel movement Renamo for an attack on a minibus that killed the driver and injured 10 passengers, after a week of tit-for-tat violence.

Armed gunmen attacked the bus and two cars in central Mozambique in the early morning on the main north-south highway, in the second assault this week since Renamo tore up a 1992-peace deal.

"This attack by Renamo once again resulted in the loss of a human life," said presidential spokesman Edson Macuacua in the central city of Beira.

"A minibus was set alight and 10 civilians injured, four of them seriously. Two of the injured were children," Macuacua said in comments sent to media. Other sources said three vehicles had been attacked.

Renamo spokesmen declined to comment on the attacks.

The assailants were also accused of stealing the belongings of victims during the incident, which took place between the Save River and the town of Muxungue, where Renamo militants attacked a police station in April.

"Armed men came out of the woods, opened fire and hit the driver in the forehead or the face," said Felisberta Moutinho, a survivor of the attack.

She also attributed the assault to Renamo, whose militants have been attacking civilian vehicles travelling along this stretch of the road over the past six months.

Since then vehicles have often travelled in military convoys, but Saturday's group had risked the road without escort.

"They kept shooting at the passengers. We left the bus and fled. Some fled through the windows, others were hit by bullets," Moutinho told AFP.

She said she ran into the woods with her two children until she spotted a group of police vehicles.

"A while later we heard explosions," she added.

Saturday's attack came a day after Renamo announced its leader's right-hand man and member of parliament Armindo Milaco had been killed by a howitzer in an assault on the group's base on Monday.

Milaco, a former child soldier, was head of national recruitment for the movement.

After losing their military headquarters to government troops, Renamo declared the two-decade peace deal over and accused the Frelimo-led government of killing multiparty democracy.

On Tuesday, armed gunmen attacked a police station in the nearby Maringue district in an apparent act of retaliation, with no casualties reported.

Renamo became the main opposition party after the 1992 peace agreement, but has lost every national election since.

Two years after independence from Portugal in 1975, it took up arms against the then-communist government of Frelimo.

Last November, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama returned to his bush camp Sathundjira near the Gorongosa mountains, saying he would retrain his soldiers for a revolution.

Government forces have been reinforced in the area since then, and the opposing militants have clashed repeatedly.

Officially, Renamo is demanding a bigger role in electoral bodies and its fighters' integration into the government forces. But analysts say what the group really wants is a cut of lucrative revenues from new coal mines and upcoming offshore gas exploitation.

More than 20 rounds of talks with Frelimo over the past 10 months have led to little progress.

The party is boycotting next month's local polls after refusing to register until electoral reforms are passed.

It failed to introduce its suggestions in parliament, claiming they would probably be voted down because of Frelimo's overwhelming majority.

Renamo has been highly critical of the Frelimo government, which it accuses of stealing the impoverished country's resources.

Representatives of both groups however have denied a return to war despite this week's hostilities.

"We know the consequences of conflict. If we respond with violence we might plunge the country back in war," Renamo spokesman Fernando Mazanga told AFP on Friday.

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