MAPUTO — Gunmen ambushed and shot at vehicles traveling along Mozambique's main north-south highway on Friday, killing two people and wounding at least five others. The government is blaming former rebel group Renamo, which earlier this week threatened to begin a terror campaign in the center of the country. Renamo has neither confirmed or denied involvement in the highway attacks.
Following Renamo’s threats this week, most drivers stayed off the national highway overnight, considering `too dangerous to drive in the dark.
But, shortly after dawn, the vehicles hit the road - and the attacks began.
One of the victims, Tanya Machungu, described on national radio how she and her family fled into the bush, after the truck they were in was ambushed.
"We started to hear shots. One of the bullets hit the driver in the face. He lost control and we hit a tree on the side of the road. They went on shooting," she said,
The family managed to open the door and escape into the bush but their attackers followed.
“I fell down and pretended to be dead. They kicked me to make sure I was dead and left me she says. They aimed their guns at her sister. She begged for her life. They said, you are lucky we will let you live. Then they fetched gasoline and burnt the truck," she said.
Renamo, which is Mozambique's main opposition party, fought current ruling party Frelimo during a 15-year civil war that ended in 1992. Since then the country has enjoyed more than 20 years of peace.
But long-simmering tensions boiled up this week when the former rebels announced their intention to stop traffic along the national road and interfere with rail traffic in central Mozambique.
Renamo claimed it was being wrongly fingered for an attack on a weapons depot earlier in the week and that government troops were about to attack its leader, Afonso Dhlakama.
On Friday, police spokesman Pedro Cossa said the Renamo spokesman who made the threats public had been arrested.
He says Jeronimo Malagueta was arrested as a consequence of the announcement he made that led to acts that, this morning, the country and the world, has witnessed.
When it made the original threats Renamo did not say how long the terror campaign would last.
Mozambique is now holding its breath, to see what the next hours will bring.