Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

MAPUTO — Suspected opposition Renamo guerrillas attacked a bus in central Mozambique on Friday, and police arrested a top Renamo general who threatened this week to "paralyse" key transport routes in the southern African nation.

The bus shooting, in which an elderly woman was wounded, and the detention of Renamo information chief Jeronimo Malagueta is likely to inflame tensions between the former rebel movement and the ruling Frelimo party, its foe in a 1975-1992 civil war in which a million people died.

Interior Ministry spokesman Pedro Cossa said three shots were fired at the bus near Machanga in the central province of Sofala. State radio said special rapid-response police units had started patrolling the main north-south highway.

"I have no doubt that it was Renamo," Mr Cossa said.

With a presidential election due in just over a year, Renamo has accused Frelimo of stacking the election commission to ensure another landslide victory for President Ernesto Guebuza.

On Wednesday, Mr Malagueta, a Renamo brigadier-general, held a news conference to announce the group’s plan to paralyse the only railway line out of Mozambique’s vast coalfields. He was arrested in the early hours of Friday, Renamo and the government said.

The Sena rail line, connecting the northwest region of Tete to the Indian Ocean port of Beira, is used predominantly by Brazil’s Vale and London-listed Rio Tinto.

The line runs close to Renamo’s stronghold in the Gorongosa mountains and was frequently attacked in the civil war in which a million people died.

Even though Renamo is in no position to initiate a widespread guerrilla campaign, it is estimated to have 1,000 men under arms and analysts say it could cause enough trouble to upset a foreign mining investment boom.

At least 11 soldiers and police and three civilians have been killed in attacks since April, when Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama threatened to initiate a campaign of violence if Frelimo did not loosen its grip on politics and the economy.

Reuters