MAPUTO (AFP) – Mozambique's government on Tuesday blamed opposition party Renamo for an attack a day earlier on a military arms depot that killed at least five soldiers amid faltering peace talks between the two parties.
"We were surprised by the tragic news that Renamo unleashed an armed attack," said Jose Pacheco, the ruling Frelimo's chief negotiator with Renamo.
Talks were set up after military skirmishes in April.
"We condemn this attack and warn that this attitude does not help democracy," Pacheco, who is also agriculture minister, was quoted as saying by Radio Mozambique.
Five soldiers died and two were wounded in an attack on an arms depot near the coastal city of Beira early Monday morning, according to state media.
"We received five bodies. They were the victims of shooting," Beira Central Hospital spokesman Orlando Jamal told Radio Mozambique.
He confirmed two more soldiers were wounded in the attack, one of them seriously.
Other reports suggested six deaths, but officials weren't immediately available to confirm the casualties.
The attack occurred at the start of new talks between the two former civil war foes and amid Renamo's renewed militarisation.
Six previous rounds of talks have failed to yield a breakthrough on any of the major issues on the table, including Renamo's threat to boycott upcoming polls if the election law isn't amended.
Relations between the parties have been tense since the end of a 16-year civil war in 1992.
But Renamo lawmakers appeared to have been caught off guard by the news.
"I have no knowledge of this attack," the party's head negotiator, Saimone Macuiana, said Monday.
The attackers made off with an unspecified number of weapons from the military arsenal according to wounded soldiers interviewed by independent local television STV.
The attack bears a strong resemblance to raids carried out by Renamo rebels during Mozambique's civil war on government armouries.
The raid briefly shut down the crucial Sena railway line, which transports coal from mines in the northwest to Beira port.
"Yesterday all trains using the Sena line received instructions to interrupt their circulation at 7:30 am (0530 GMT) and to restart at 14:00 hours (1200 GMT)," Acucena Paul, spokeswoman for Brazilian miner Vale, told AFP.
British-Australian Rio Tinto also uses the line to export coal from its operations in Tete province.