Maputo - Four Mozambican police were killed when armed
members of the opposition Renamo party raided a provincial station to try to
free more than a dozen colleagues arrested earlier in the week, police said on
Thursday's clash at Muxungue in the central province of
Sofala is one of the most serious outbreaks of political violence in a decade
in the war-scarred, mineral-rich southern African nation, and bodes ill for
elections due next year.
Police declined to comment other than to confirm the death
toll in the town, home to Renamo headquarters raided by police on Wednesday.
Renamo security chief Osufo Madate said the retaliation
demonstrated the party's refusal to tolerate what it says is oppression meted
out by the ruling Frelimo party, its enemy in a 16-year post-independence civil
war that ended in the early 1990s.
"For the past 20 years we have fought for peace and
have been repeatedly attacked and humiliated," Madate told Reuters.
"But since October 2012 we have changed our stance. If
we continue with our peaceful behaviour, it will mean the end of us. From now
on, whenever we are attacked, we will retaliate adequately."
Political tensions have been rising since police killed two
men after storming Renamo offices in a northern town a year ago.
Renamo president Afonso Dhlakama briefly retreated to a camp
in the secluded Gorongosa Mountains in November, threatening to set up a
guerrilla training camp and kick off another war.
Although resumption of full hostilities is highly unlikely
given Frelimo's political and military dominance since a shaky 1992 truce,
tensions are bound to worry foreign mining firms exploring some of the world's
largest untapped coal and natural gas reserves.
Major investors include Italy's Eni, New York-listed
Anadarko, Brazil's Vale and London-listed Rio Tinto.
Mozambique's offshore Rovuma gas field is believed to hold
150 trillion cubic feet of gas, enough to supply Germany, Britain, France and
Italy for 15 years.