Portugal and Mozambique have signed a new military agreement that will see troops of the southern African country trained to confront a growing Islamist insurgency in the north of the nation.
Portuguese Defence Minister Joao Gomes Cravinho said the five-year plan builds on previous agreements between Lisbon and its former colony while adding new elements.
These include “a major training project for Mozambican special forces, which will entail a fourfold increase in the number of Portuguese personnel,” Gomes Cravinho said at a joint press conference with his Mozambican counterpart, Jaime Bessa Neto.
The European Union (EU) could also send between 200 and 300 soldiers to Mozambique on a training mission, the bloc’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said in an interview with Portugal’s Radio Ranancenca published on Monday.
Gomes Cravinho laid the groundwork for the accord during a visit in December.
A 60-strong training mission kicked off after jihadists swooped on the coastal town of Palma on March 24, killing dozens of people and triggering an exodus that included workers on a multi-billion-dollar liquefied natural gas project.
Jihadist groups have been assailing Palma’s Cabo Delgado province bordering Tanzania since late 2017.
“The country is being attacked by foreign forces, by terrorism,” Bessa Neto told the news conference. “This is suffering that the international community must take on, to support the efforts of the Mozambican security forces.”
He said the conflict had so far claimed some 2,000 lives among troops, civilians, and jihadists while displacing around 800,000 people.