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Lisbon offers Mozambique support in fight against jihadists

Portugal has offered to help Mozambique fight the Islamist insurgency threatening the resource-rich north of the country, particularly with military training, the Portuguese defence minister said Saturday.

Jihadists have stepped up attacks aimed at carving out a caliphate in Cabo Delgado province, where 2,400 people have been reported killed and a million displaced over the last three years.

“I am convinced that we will be able to put in place from the beginning of 2021 a cooperation that will allow Mozambique to fully exercise its sovereignty over its entire national territory,” Joao Gomes Cravinho told TSF radio after a visit to Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony.

“The dialogue with the Mozambican authorities has been very positive, very practical. We talked about how we can work together,” he added.

Assistance would include training and logistical support “so that Mozambicans are able to do what is necessary to find peace in Cabo Delgado,” said the minister whose country will take over the rotating European Union presidency in January.

The jihadists are now present in 10 of the province’s 17 districts, according to Mozambique military sources.

Details about the militants are sketchy. They call themselves Al-Shabab but have no known link to the group of that name operating in Somalia.

Last year, they pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

The conflict is taking place in a strategic region with huge reserves of liquefied natural gas.

The poor southern African country is banking on a giant gas project to boost its GDP when it emerges as one of the world’s leading natural gas exporters.