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US military begins training Mozambican troops

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Mozambican soldiers patrol the streets after security in the area was increased following a two-day attack by militants, in Mocimboa da Praia, Mozambique, on March 7, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The United States military has assigned special operations forces to train troops in the Southeast African country of Mozambique.

The US embassy in Maputo said in a statement on Monday that the 8-week training course is part of the so-called effort to “prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism.” 

The statement added that the US military had also provided the Mozambican marines necessary communications equipment and medical supplies.

The short course was launched this week by a dozen Army Green Berets trainers under the auspices of the Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA), a sub-unified command of United States Special Operation Command (USSOCOM). USSOCOM itself is under operational control of United States Africa Command (US Africom), which is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany.

Meanwhile, little is known about Mozambique's militants who call themselves Al-Shabab, although they have no known links to a group by the same name operating in Somalia.

Mozambican militants are known to have pledged allegiance to the Deash terrorist group in 2019.

Media reports quoted US military sources citing reports of Daesh militants moving into Mozambican regions after suffering heavy losses in the Middle Eastern theater in past years and capturing huge swathes of land in an energy-rich region of Mozambique, including a port where hundreds of civilians were beheaded.

Last week, the US State Department designated the Al-Shabab militant group as a foreign terrorist group along with a similar Daesh affiliated militant group in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the US State Department, the Mozambican Al-Shabab militants orchestrated a series of “large scale and sophisticated attacks,” most notably resulting in the capture of the strategic port of Mocimboa da Praia located in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province near the border with Tanzania on the Indian Ocean.

The port, which is positioned in the oil-rich area in northern Mozambique, is a cargo hub for the Southeast African nation.

“I don’t think anyone saw this coming,” Col. Richard Schmidt, the deputy commander of SOCAFRICA, said in a telephone interview from Maputo. “For this to crop up so quickly is concerning.”

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