US asks sanctioned Zimbabwe to help fight Mozambique militants

THE United States asked Zimbabwe to help put down an Islamist insurgency in neighbouring Mozambique that’s destabilising a region rich in natural gas, people familiar with the matter said.

The request came in a phone call between US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Tibor Nagy and Zimbabwe Foreign Af-fairs minister Sibusiso Moyo last week, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details of the talks have not been made public.

The Foreign Affairs minister asked that the US first drops targeted sanctions against Zimbabwean officials, the sources said. Mozambique has been struggling to suppress the Islamic State-affiliated group that is destabilising a region where nearly US$60 billion in investment in natural gas facilities are planned by companies including Total SE and Exxon Mobil Corp.

While Zimbabwe is in a state of economic collapse, its army is battle-hardened with its troops having fought in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as having supported US operations in Angola and Somalia. Zimbabwe has a long history of involvement in neighbouring Mozambique. The guerrilla army of its ruling party used Mozambique as a base from which to launch attacks on then White-ruled Rhodesia in a 1970s liberation war.

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