MAPUTO (AFP) – Mozambique's main opposition party Renamo Tuesday claimed its fighters killed 36 soldiers and police in a fresh outbreak of violence at the weekend between the government and its former civil war foes.
Renamo said the killings occurred in two separate clashes in the central province of Sofala, a region where violence erupted earlier this year more than two decades after the end of a brutal civil war in the southern African country.
National police spokesman Pedro Cossa confirmed the presence of armed men in the region, but did not comment on the reported casualties.
Local media reported two deaths.
In a statement emailed to AFP, rebel group-turned-opposition party Renamo said it had first clashed with Frelimo government forces on Saturday.
"Renamo security forces responded promptly to fire from FADM (Armed Forces of Mozambique) and FIR (Police Rapid Intervention Force) causing 29 deaths," it said.
"The next day... there was a new onslaught by the forces of the Frelimo government and it was again answered promptly and killed seven," Renamo said, claiming the deadly exchange of fire was in self defence.
It was not clear what had prompted the clashes.
Tension had been simmering between the former warring parties which signed a peace deal in 1992 after 16 years of civil war which broke out shortly after independence from Portugal.
Support for Renamo has waned in recent elections, and its leader Afonso Dhlakama in October last year began retraining ageing veterans demanding "a new political order."
The party is demanding more representation in the armed forces, an overhaul of the electoral system and a cut of revenues from Mozambiques fast-growing coal and gas mines.
Armed clashes broke out in April with a Renamo attack on a police station in Muxungue, near the latest outbreak of violence.
In July police burnt down 50 huts belonging to suspected armed members of Renamo in an a bid to flush out those it suspected were behind a spate of ambushing civilian vehicles in the area.
A latest round of peace talks ended without a deal on Monday, despite a partial agreement reached last month to change the electoral laws.
Without changes to existing electoral legislation the opposition has vowed to boycott the local government elections due in November.