The Mozambique head of state announced that the Islamist terrorist group Al-Shabbab, affiliated with Daesh, had been ousted from the port city of Palma.
The jihadists were “driven” from the city of Palma, said Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on April 7, 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”. “We are aware that we are fighting against terrorism,” he said.
On March 24, armed groups raided the city of 75,000, killing dozens of civilians, police and soldiers. The attack, claimed by the Islamic State group (Daesh), took place just a few kilometers from the large gas project of the French group Total, on the Afungi peninsula.
Mozambican authorities said they had partially regained control of the city on April 5 and a “significant” number of Islamist fighters were killed, the military said.
Thousands of soldiers deployed
Thousands of troops have been deployed in recent days, but since the first attacks in 2017, government forces have been unable to effectively fight 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 on April 8 as a matter of urgency to discuss the fight against terrorism in the region. “Those who come from outside will not come to replace us. They will come to support us, ”added the Mozambican president.
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 aggravated the humanitarian crisis in the region.
Nearly 11,000 people have been displaced, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). 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.
For the past two weeks, many residents have continued to wander in the bush, without food or access to water, heading towards neighboring towns, sometimes several hundred kilometers away to find refuge, or towards the Tanzanian border to the north.
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 the Daesh group.
The NGO Acled already recorded 2,600 dead before the attack on Palma, half of them civilians.