Fri, 21 Feb 2020

Four people were killed in central Mozambique after assailants targeted a health centre, witnesses said Wednesday, the first attack since President Filipe Nyusi began his second term last week.

Mozambique's government has blamed factions of the former guerilla group and opposition movement Renamo for attacks in the centre of the country in violation of last year's peace deal.

Attackers hit the health centre in a village in central Sofala province on Tuesday night, where they "fired several shots and entered the health centre and stole all the medicines," a local nurse told AFP.

"The people who died were at the health centre and were hit by stray bullets," she said.

Mozambique's recent unrest began after October's disputed election won by Nyusi and following a peace deal between his ruling Frelimo party and Renamo.

Frelimo and Renamo, whose 1976-92 civil war left one million dead in the former Portuguese colony, agreed to the deal in August under which Renamo has promised to disarm its fighters.

Tuesday's attack was the first on a health centre as armed groups have previously targeted vehicles passing along a central highway.

"We suspect they wanted medicines as they didn't target homes but only the health centre in Macorococho village, in Nhamatanda district," a local community leader said.

Investigations

Maria Maunze, a resident of the village, told AFP that the attackers emerged from the bush, and started shooting into the air to disperse the population.

"I left the pots on the fire and ran away. But they wanted the medicines at the health centre," Maunze said.

The attack, which occurred in the area where a police vehicle was recently attacked and a police officer murdered, has not yet been claimed by any group.

But villagers and local officials blamed a Renamo military faction, which has dismissed the accusations.

"They are the ones who have been attacking in the region," Mario Zeca, local leader of the ruling Frelimo party, told AFP. "The government must agree with Renamo to end the attacks."

Police declined to comment on the attack, saying investigations were still under way.

Mozambique's Minister of Defence, Jaime Neto, told AFP the military was "working hard" to restore tranquility in these regions.

In addition to the ambushes in the centre of the country, northern Mozambique is in the grip of a two-year-old Islamist insurgency that has claimed several hundred lives.

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