After six years of merely containing the guerrillas of Frelimo - the Mozambique Liberation Front - Portuguese troops have gone on the offensive in their East African territory.
After six years of merely containing the guerrillas of Frelimo - the Mozambique Liberation Front - Portuguese troops have gone on the offensive in their East African territory. They claim considerable successes against the infiltrators from Tanzania and Zambia.
The Portuguese launched their biggest offensive in August and have since consolidated their position with several more operations. Their object is to reduce the infiltration of insurgents across the frontiers in the north and north-west.
The success of the offensives is said to have given the Portuguese troops, who include Mozambique Africans, new confidence. They claim that broadcasts from Radio Peking and Moscow show that the rebels have taken a military and psychological beating. Many of them have been driven back across the Rovuma River, which forms the border with Tanzania.
In Tete District, near Zambia and site of the controversial Cabora-Bassa power and irrigation project which will include Africa's biggest dam, the "loyalist" forces claim marked progress in capturing and destroying guerrilla camps. Many insurgents are said to have been driven back across the Zambian border.
The worst fear of the Government forces is the mines which the insurgents plant in the roads through the bush. The mines cover bags of rusty nails which can cause savage wounds. But fewer of them have been found in recent weeks.
There are about 40,000 Portuguese troops in Mozambique and it is claimed that they kill about three insurgents for every fatality among their own troops. Rebel spokesmen in Dar es Salaam and other Frelimo centres deny these figures and make counter-claims. But foreign journalists who have visited Mozambique in recent weeks have found that Portuguese morale there is higher than it had been for years.
The Portuguese say that about 2,000 guerrillas are operating from Tanzania into Mozambique but the infiltrators have met with so many setbacks that the local population in the border areas has now swung to the Portuguese side. Most of the villages are protected against the infiltrators by "home guards". Many Africans who fled to Zambia and Malawi when the fighting started have now returned to Mozambique - 3,000 have come back in one area.
One wounded guerrilla fighter was seen by visiting journalists in a hospital bed in Nampula in the same ward as wounded Portuguese soldiers. There was no guard and no apparent sign of friction.