The jihadists were “driven” from the city of Palma in Mozambique, President Filipe Nyusi said on Wednesday, two weeks after the bloody attack on the port city in the north of the country by armed groups.
“The terrorists have been driven out of Palma”, declared the Head of State in a speech to the Nation transmitted on television, adding however not “to declare victory because we are aware that we are fighting against terrorism”. On March 24, armed groups raided the city of 75,000, killing dozens of civilians, police and soldiers. The attack claimed by Daesh took place just a few kilometers from the gas mega-project of the French group Total, on the Afungi peninsula.
Mozambican authorities said they had partially regained control of the city on Monday, with the military claiming to have killed a “significant” number of Islamist fighters. Thousands of troops have been deployed in recent days, but since the first attacks in 2017, government forces have been unable to effectively combat the rebels terrorizing the poor but natural gas-rich Cabo Delgado province on the border with Tanzania.
“Our government has expressed to the international community the needs to fight terrorism and these needs are being assessed,” said Filipe Nyusi. Six presidents of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are due to meet urgently on Thursday to discuss the fight against terrorism in the region.
Without water or food
Filipe Nyusi also reiterated his call for amnesty for Mozambicans who have joined the ranks of the jihadists. “We are ready to welcome you and reintegrate you into society,” he said. The attack on Palma, considered a major escalation since the start of the violence and whose real toll is not yet known, has further exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the region.
Nearly 11,000 people have been displaced, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). For the past two weeks, many inhabitants have continued to wander in the bush, without food or access to water, heading towards neighboring towns, sometimes a few hundred kilometers away to find refuge, or towards the Tanzanian border to the north. Some 23,000 others are believed to be still on the Afungi peninsula, near the Total site. The French group has evacuated all its staff and the multibillion-euro project is at a standstill.
Locally referred to as al-Shabab (“the youth” in Arabic), the armed groups ravaging the region, burning down villages and practicing large-scale beheading to terrorize the population, have pledged their allegiance to Daesh.