[There are enormous gas reserves in the north of Portuguese Mozambique. Africa is filled with unbelievable resources. If only we whites could get this for our race. Africa is so freaking rich. Jan]
This image, shared widely on social media and verified by a CNN source, appear to show a Russian Antonov 124 transport plane arriving in September at Nacala on Mozambique’s eastern coast delivering military hardware.
(CNN)A deployment of Russian guns-for-hire, with links to the Kremlin, has sustained casualties in its fight against Islamist militants in Mozambique, multiple sources have told CNN.
In another example of Russia’s growing reach into Africa, dozens of private military contractors are aiding the Mozambique army which is battling an insurgency in its northernmost province.
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The mercenaries in this resource-rich southern African country appear associated with Yevgeny Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg oligarch so close to the Kremlin that he is known as President Vladimir Putin’s "chef."
Prigozhin, whose reach in the region stretches into Sudan, Libya and the Central African Republic, is thought to be the financier of the Wagner group, hundreds of whose fighters have also been deployed into Syria. His companies have been previously sanctioned by the US Treasury Department for their actions in Syria and his financing of the Internet Research Agency, which was responsible for Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 US elections.
Prigozhin has routinely denied any connection to Wagner.
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The fast-expanding insurgency in Mozambique threatens to disrupt crucial foreign investment in the country’s natural gas reserves, believed to be worth billions of dollars.
Multiple sources have told CNN that the Russian intervention has not begun well. Two contractors, ages 28 and 31, have been killed during clashes with the insurgents, the sources say. And there are unconfirmed reports of additional casualties.
Yevgeny Shabayev, who acts as an unofficial spokesman for Wagner fighters, told CNN that the bodies of the two men had already been returned from Mozambique to their home region of Vladimir, east of Moscow.
The role the mercenaries are playing in the country — combat or advisory — is still unclear. CNN has obtained photographs showing Russian fighters and equipment in the port city of Pemba. Mozambican sources told CNN the mercenaries are also based further north in the coastal town of Mocimboa da Praia and have been involved in several operations along the northern border with Tanzania, where the Islamist insurgency is growing in strength.
Sources in the country also told CNN that the Russians are poorly equipped for combat in the dense bush and that the relationship between the mercenaries and Mozambique army is strained.
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One Mozambican soldier told a producer working with CNN that the Russians "are doing nothing in terms of reducing the impact of the attacks" and that Mozambican troops had refused to take part in some operations.
Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, told reporters in early October that "as far as Mozambique is concerned, there are no Russian soldiers there."
The deployment of Russian contractors in September followed a visit by President Filipe Nyusi in Moscow a month earlier, the first visit by a Mozambican head of state in two decades.
During the visit, Presidents Putin and Nyusi signed agreements on mineral resources, energy, defense and security.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi meet at the Kremlin in August.
Shortly after the trip, 160 guns-for-hire arrived in Mozambique, according to an eyewitness. They arrived on September 13 in a giant Russian Antonov An-124 plane, according to flight data.
Twelve days later, a second Antonov An-124 touched down at Nacala Airport carrying military equipment, including an Mi-17 attack helicopter.
This image, shared widely on social media and verified by a CNN source, appears to show a truck being unloaded in Nacala in September.
At least one of the An-124s that flew into Mozambique belonged to the 224th Flight Unit of the Russian air force. The Russian Defense Ministry previously signed a contract, details of which were seen by CNN, with a Prigozhin company for the use of transport aircraft of a similar air force unit, the 223rd Flight. Between August 2018 and February 2019, two planes of the 223rd Flight made at least nine flights to Khartoum, as Russia carried out an ultimately unsuccessful plan to keep deposed Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in power.
Russia sees big opportunities across Africa as the US military presence there is scaled back and as cash-strapped governments seek security assistance. Moscow has signed more than 20 defense agreements with African governments, and last month Putin welcomed 43 heads of state or government from Africa to a summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
In return, the Kremlin gains strategic influence and preferential access to the continent’s vast natural wealth, from gas to gold.
This image, shared widely on social media and verified by a CNN source, appears to show an Mi-17 transport helicopter, part of the military hardware delivery at Nacala in September.
CNN’s investigation in the Central African Republic earlier this year showed that one of Prigozhin’s companies, Lobaye Invest, was granted several concessions to mine for diamonds and gold.
There is now plentiful evidence, if no public confirmation, that Mozambique has become the latest African theater for Prigozhin.
And as elsewhere in Africa, companies linked to Prigozhin have carried out well-disguised social media campaigns in Mozambique.