US Special Operations Forces will train Mozambican marines for two months to fight against the jihadist insurgency in the northeastern Cabo Delgado province, the United States Embassy in Maputo said on Monday.
Armed groups, known locally as al-Shabab (« young people » in Arabic), have been sowing terror for more than three years in the strategic province of Cabo Delgado, which borders Tanzania and is an area that is rich in natural gas.
In 2019 they pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
“In addition to the training, the US government provided medical and communications equipment,” the embassy said, adding that the American forces who will partake in the program called « Joint Combined Exchange Training » are already in Mozambique.
The move comes as the US designated rebel groups in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo as foreign terrorist organisations.
The conflict reached a symbolic turning point at the end of December with attacks carried out for the first time just a few kilometers from a multibillion-euro gas project operated by the French oil and gas company Total.
Attacks have reduced considerably in the last few months, which is attributed to increased military response.
But the NGO Amnesty International on March 2 accused the Mozambican forces and mercenaries of « war crimes » for indiscriminately killing civilians during their struggle against the jihadist group in Cabo Delgado.
The army refuted the accusations.
The conflict has left at least 2,600 dead, more than half of them civilians, according to the NGO ACLED.
More than 670,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.
« Civil protection, human rights and community involvement are at the heart of American cooperation and are essential to effectively combat ISIS in Mozambique, » the United States said in a press statement.