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Mozambique's Renamo threatens to paralyse coal export line

MAPUTO (Reuters) - The opposition party Renamo, a former guerrilla organization, threatened on Wednesday to paralyse the only railway line leading from Mozambique’s northwest coalfields.

Renamo information chief Jeronimo Malagueta told a news conference in Maputo the disruption of the Sena line from Tete to the Indian Ocean port of Beira would last “as long as it takes”.

“From Thursday June 20 we will take action to make the logistics of the country fragile,” he said, without providing details.

He did not clarify the group’s objectives but the threat marks an escalation in tensions with the Frelimo government, the formerly Marxist party that has run the southern African nation since the end of the 1975-1992 civil war.

Fernando Mavanga, the main spokesman for Renamo, which is thought to have around 1,000 men under arms, said its plans were “military secrets”. He justified action against the coal corridor because it was an economic lifeline for Frelimo.

Relations between Frelimo and Renamo, founded around independence with the help of white-ruled Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa, have nosedived this year amid accusations that Frelimo has a unshakeable grip over politics and the economy.

Seven soldiers were killed on Monday when gunmen raided a weapons depot near the Sena line terminus, although Renamo denied any involvement.

Two months ago, Renamo fighters killed four policemen in an attack on a police station and a few days later three civilians were killed when gunmen ambushed vehicles on the main north-south highway, a common Renamo tactic during the civil war.

Many Mozambicans fear the tensions and violence could derail an economic boom based on foreign mining investment.

Reporting by Marina Lopes; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by David Dolan and Angus MacSwan