Mozambique's army has killed two senior rebel leaders in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, which is in the grip of an armed jihadist insurgency, it announced on Wednesday.
"Terrorist Abu Kital, who held the position of deputy operations commander for the Al Sunna Wall Jamat terrorist group, was shot dead," the Mozambique Defense Forces (FADM) announced in a statement.
Another jihadist, Ali Mahando, who "held important responsibilities within the terrorist group", was also killed, they added.
Rich in natural gas, the Muslim-majority province of Cabo Delgado has been gripped for five years by an insurgency led by fighters linked to the Islamic State group. The fighting has claimed at least 4,737 lives, almost half of them civilians, according to the conflict-monitoring organization ACLED, and around a million inhabitants have fled their homes.
According to the FADM, the insurgents ambushed the soldiers, but one of their vehicles "overturned on a bridge and caught fire". The two rebel leaders were killed in the ensuing exchange of fire, and no soldiers were wounded, the same source added.
The army did not specify when the clash took place, but other sources said it had occurred on Tuesday.
Since July 2021, thousands of troops from Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have been deployed to support the Mozambican army, and have since helped regain control of much of Cabo Delgado.
A $20 billion gas project in the region, led by French giant TotalEnergies, has been suspended since 2021 after a deadly attack in the coastal town of Palma.
In May, Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi declared that conditions were ripe for the resumption of work, but TotalEnergies has not yet committed to relaunching the project.