Countries in Southern Africa on Wednesday agreed to deploy forces to help quell a bloody jihadist insurgency wreaking havoc in northern Mozambique over the past three years.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc “approved” the deployment of the “SADC Standby Force in support of Mozambique to combat of terrorism and acts of violent extremism in Cabo Delgado,” the bloc’s executive secretary Stergomena Tax said at the end of a one day summit.
She did not give details of the strength or the timeline of the deployment. A document leaked earlier this year recommended sending around 3,000 soldiers to Cabo Delgado province, where insurgents have seized control of towns and villages, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.
The violence has escalated in the gas-rich north of Mozambique since breaking out in late 2017 and there are fears it could spill over into neighbouring countries.
On March 24, Islamic State-linked militants launched coordinated attacks on the northern town of Palma, ransacking buildings and murdering residents as thousands fled into the surrounding forests.
The assault marked an intensification of violence and has driven around 800,000 people from their homes, according to the United Nations, and claimed the lives of more than 2,800 people — half of them civilians.
The leaders of Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe attended the talks in Maputo.