In recent years, scores of people have been killed in Islamist attacks in Mozambique where militants are said to have established Islamists camps.
Forty attacks have been carried out since October 2017 in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province, an area near the Tanzanian border close to where companies are developing one of the biggest natural gas finds in a decade, killing over 100 people.
Inspector General of Police Simon Sirro said yesterday that security forces had launched an operation over the last few months against "criminals" in eastern and southern areas, but that some of them had managed to flee.
"During that operation, some criminals were arrested and some ... died, and a few escaped. Those who escaped are the ones trying to cross the border to
Mozambique to establish a base," he told a news conference.
"After questioning them, they said they were going there to join radical camps," Sirro added.
Earlier this month, Mozambique put 189 people, including foreigners, on trial for involvement in Islamist attacks in Cabo Delgado province.
The province is near one of the world's biggest untapped offshore natural gas fields, and Anadarko Petroleum is seeking to raise $14-$15 billion for a liquefied natural gas project in the region.
In June, President Filipe Nyusi vowed to be relentless and firm in detaining those responsible for the attacks.
Mozambique has no history of Islamist militancy and the authorities have been reluctant to ascribe the attacks to Islamists. About 30 per cent of Mozambique's 30 million people are Roman Catholics, while 18 per cent are Muslims.
In June, this year, security officers in Mozambique arrested about 470 people, including 314 Mozambicans, 50 Tanzanians, three Ugandans, one Somali and more than 100 unidentified people, allegedly linked to the militants. They have since been detained.
At the beginning of the insurgency, the militants mainly targeted Mozambique defence force units, police stations and state buildings.
But later, small bands consisting of about six men and women have been targeting civilians.
Although the Mozambican military says the insurgents are weakening because their groups have reduced in size, a study released in May by academics Salvador
Forquilha, João Pereira and Sheik Saide Habibe stated that they are reducing the size of their units to reduce losses if they come under attack by the army.
Reports say the Democratic Republic of Congo forces were on the ground providing support to Mozambique.
In January, this year, Mozambique and neighbouring Tanzania signed a
memorandum of understanding under which they will collaborate in the fight against the militants.