Seized by terrorists linked to the Islamic State since the end of March, the city of Palma, just a few kilometers from a huge gas complex in northern Mozambique, is again under the control of government officials.
Army spokesman Chongo Vidigal confirmed on Sunday evening (4) that the armed forces had taken control of the city. “A significant number of extremists have been killed,” he said in a statement to state TVM.
“There has been significant loss of life and the infrastructure has been destroyed. But people are now safe,” Armindo Ngunga, secretary of state of Cabo Delgado province, told the news agency on Monday. Reuters press.
The town of 75,000 inhabitants of the province of Cabo Delgado was surrounded by terrorists on March 24 – the date on which the French group Total announced the resumption of work on the gas extraction refinery – and was resumed three days later.
Much of the municipality was reportedly destroyed and corpses lay in the streets – TVM footage showed a soldier covering a fallen body and setting buildings and cars on fire. The government said dozens of people died in the attack, without giving exact figures.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks through its news agency, Amaq, on March 29, claiming it took control of the city after days of clashes with security forces. So far, the group said it has killed at least 55 people, including soldiers, in addition to destroying and taking over buildings, including factories and banks.
There were around 60,000 people in Palma at this time, and many fled to Tanzania or Nangade, near the border. The attacked town is located in the region of billionaire gas extraction megaprojects, including that of the French group Total, which again suspended its operations after the terrorist actions.
Last week, between 6,000 and 10,000 people were accommodated in the ultra-protected complex of the European multinational or were trying to access it, according to AFP.
Total had withdrawn all its employees because the terrorists were approaching the region, according to a source heard by Reuters on Friday (2).
Since October 2017, al-Shabaab extremists, who have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State, have looted villages and towns in various provinces, causing the exodus of nearly 700,000 people, according to the UN . The conflict in Cabo Delgado spans the northern coast of Mozambique, from Pemba to Palma, on the border with Tanzania.
According to David Matsinhe, Amnesty International’s researcher for Mozambique and Angola, the insurgents are young, mostly male, born in the predominantly Muslim province of a predominantly Catholic country.
The head of Amnesty International explains that the insurgents are the result of a long period of political, economic and social exclusion. After centuries under Portuguese control, Mozambique gained independence in 1975. During those more than 45 years as a free state, however, the Cabo Delgado region has been ignored by the central government, says the researcher.
The local population had natural resources as the basis of their survival. For Matsinhe, the conflict arose when the central government discovered the existence of gas reserves and began to exploit them without offering economic and social development to the inhabitants of the region.
The multinationals that have projects in Cabo Delgado, for their part, do not employ the local population, says the researcher, but Mozambicans from other provinces or foreigners.
Before the Palma attacks, the clashes already totaled 2,658 dead, including 1,341 civilians, according to the latest data from the Armed Conflict Location and Events Data Project – which does not include the latter action.
An attack with this degree of coordination, with modern weapons and high morale fighters, at least judging by the video of the preparation for the attack released by the Amaq news agency, is a sign that the insurgents are more sophisticated, have acquired training, logistics and they seem far from the weakening that one could imagine in their fight against the police, the army and the foreign mercenaries.
The Mozambican Center for Democracy and Development said last Tuesday (30), in its bulletin, that the South African private security company DAG (Dyck Advisory Group), whose contract with the Interior Ministry to help the police expire on April 6, even warned of an impending attack, but warnings were ignored.