By Mbangwa Xaba

A contingent of female naval soldiers in the Rwanda Defence Force, alongside their male counterparts, have pushed back against rebels allied with the Islamic State group in Cabo Delgado northern Mozambique.

African News reports that the rebels were occupying the strategic town of Mocimboa da Praia in province until a 1,000-strong Rwandan force was deployed there.

They forced the rebels to withdraw into remote areas and break up into smaller groups.

Lt. Yvonne Umwiza, who leads a Rwandan speed boat unit, said women were treated no differently to men in the mixed units.

Mozambican and Rwandan government forces have taken control of Mocimboa da Praia. The town had been controlled by an armed group linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) since August 2020.

Mozambican authorities should now quickly move to ensure humanitarian aid reaches local residents who have been trapped in the town for more than a year.

Humanitarian agencies, including the United Nations World Food Programme and Doctors Without Borders, were forced to abandon Mocímboa da Praia last year for security reasons, leaving residents without food and medical supplies.

The Mozambican Ministry of Defence spokesman, Col. Omar Saranga, said joint military forces were in control of public government buildings, markets, and restaurants, along with the port, airport, and hospital.

But he did not provide details on military or civilian casualties or the number of people being detained.

Troops were working to secure surrounding villages that are still under the armed group’s control, he said.

In their four-year insurgency, the Islamic State-allied rebels created a humanitarian crisis in Cabo Delgado in which 8,000 people were displaced and 3,000 lives were lost.

Southern African countries on Monday inaugurated a regional military mission to help Mozambique take back control of its gas-rich northern province from jihadists that have been rampaging across towns and villages for nearly four years.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi and Botswanan President Mokgweetsi Masisi launched the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique at an event in Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province.

“We reaffirm our joint commitment to fight against violent extremism together with the Rwandan forces,” said Nyusi.

He mentioned that “news in recent days of the success of Rwanda’s mission and our forces,” referring to the recapture of Awasse and Mocimboa da Praia towns from the insurgents, just weeks after the East African troops arrived.

Mozambican forces, backed by Rwandan troops, on Sunday said they had driven out militants occupying Mocimboa da Praia, a port from where the first Islamist attacks were staged in October 2017.

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