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Gunmen attack vehicles on Moz highway

21 June 2013, 14:34

Maputo - Gunmen ambushed two vehicles driving along Mozambique's main north-south highway early on Friday, state media reported, just days after ex-rebels had vowed to block main transport routes.

A local official put the blame for the violence on the opposition and ex-rebel movement Renamo, which neither claimed nor denied responsibility.

The two separate incidents saw a truck and a passenger bus shot up on the EN1 road in central Sofala province and left at least one person injured, according to Radio Mozambique.

Renamo on Wednesday had said it would block the country's main highway in the area, along with a crucial rail link to coal fields.

Six rounds of peace talks between Renamo and the Frelimo-led government have failed to cool testy relations between the former foes, who fought a brutal 16 year civil war that ended in 1992.

In one attack, a truck was shot at about 70km from the town of Muxungwe.

"As we were driving they started shooting from the bush... they shot me," Monica Malote, a hitchhiker who had gotten a lift in the truck, told the radio.

In a second incident on the same stretch of road, a passenger bus heading toward the town of Quelimane came under fire, with a local official putting the blame on Renamo.

"Renamo men attacked a bus ... They fired three shots. Luckily there were no deaths," Arnaldo Machohe, a district administrator, told Radio Mozambique.

Machohe was unavailable for comment and police declined to confirm the details of the attacks.

Plain-clothed soldiers

Asked about the attacks on Friday, a Renamo spokesperson told AFP that it "did not have enough information" to claim or deny responsibility.

"The alert we gave at the press conference was to prevent this type of situation from coming about," Fernando Mazanga told AFP, referring to the attacks.

Mazanga said that police had arrested Renamo's information chief, Jeronimo Malagueta, who had issued the warning about blocking the roads.

Renamo vowed on Wednesday to stop traffic along the 100km stretch of road between the Save River and the town of Muxungwe, saying they had to stop "plain-clothed soldiers" from reaching their leader's bush camp further north.

Many truck and bus drivers using the main EN1 road decided not to use it overnight as attacks would be more likely, local independent television station STV reported.

Machohe told radio that Mozambican security forces were maintaining a heavy presence in the area.

"All forces, the rapid intervention force [riot police] and other forces are on the roads guaranteeing safety," he said. 

Three civilians died three months ago when Renamo members and police clashed along the same stretch of road.



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