European Union agrees to help Mozambique tackle insurgency: statement

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium August 21, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The European Union has granted Mozambique's request for assistance in tackling a wave of attacks in the country's north by rebels with links to Islamic State, the EU delegation in the southern African country said.

Militant attacks in Cabo Delgado province date to 2017 but the violence has gathered pace this year, with insurgents seizing important towns for brief periods and hitting military and other key targets.

Mozambique wrote to the EU in September to ask for help in training its armed forces to battle the insurgency.

The EU delegation statement said the bloc would grant Mozambique's request for help with "logistics for training and technical training in several and specific areas, as well as assistance in addressing humanitarian challenges, including medical services" dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

The U.N. World Food Programme says more than 300,000 people have fled the violence in Cabo Delgado.

Zenaida Machado, a researcher at global rights group Human Rights Watch, said in a note that the EU ambassador to Mozambique, Antonio Sanchez-Benedito Gaspar, had ruled out sending in European troops.

Machado said the EU would require "verifiable commitments from the Mozambican security forces to respect human rights in its operations and hold violators accountable" before providing military support.

Mozambique last month denied accusations by rights group Amnesty International that soldiers had committed atrocities, saying the acts were carried out by Islamist insurgents impersonating troops.

If it happens, the EU security assistance would be the first official international intervention specifically aimed at assisting Maputo fight insugents in Cabo Delgado, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).

ACLED, which uses various data sources to map and quantify political violence across Africa, said it had identified scores of incidents of fighting in the first week of October in the Palma, Muidumbe and Macomia districts.

(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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