Maputo - Mozambican ex-rebel group Renamo staged a pre-dawn
attack on a police station Tuesday, hours after it declared the end of a peace
deal signed 21 years ago, locals said.
Police fled the station in the central town of Maringue when
Renamo members opened fire on it, escalating hostilities between the rebel
group-turned-opposition party and the government of ruling party Frelimo, the
group against which Renamo fought a bloody 16-year civil war.
"Gunmen attacked the police station but fortunately
there were no casualties because the policemen fled the post," Maringue's
administrator Antonio Absalao told AFP by phone.
The town is located about 35km from Renamo's military base,
which government troops seized on Monday in an operation the ex-rebels claimed
was aimed at killing their leader, Afonso Dhlakama.
"The situation is horrible here. Early this morning,
armed men supposed to be Renamo attacked, and it was a mess," said Romao
Martins, a local teacher.
"For one hour shooting could be heard from all
directions and people fled from their homes," he said.
Schools have been shut amid fears of an escalation in
A Renamo spokesperson hinted that the group was responsible
for the attack.
"The president of Renamo has lost control of the situation
and you cannot blame... [him] for what happens from here on," Renamo's
Fernando Mazanga told AFP.
"The guerrillas are scattered and will attack without
taking any orders," said Mazanga.
Renamo, which launched a rebellion against the
then-communist Frelimo government after Mozambique gained independence from
Portugal in 1975, declared on Monday that it had pulled out of the peace
agreement that ended that conflict.
Mazanga said on Monday's attack on its base "marks the
end of multiparty democracy" in Mozambique.
The Mozambique civil war, which ended in 1992 after Renamo
lost its Cold War backers Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa, killed about one
Tensions between the two sides began escalating last year
after Dhlakama set up camp in the Gorongosa mountains, retraining former
The assault on the Renamo base came after the former rebel
movement attacked a government military unit on Thursday.
Defence ministry spokesman Custodio Chume told state
broadcaster Radio Mozambique that Monday's assault on the Renamo base was in
response to that attack.