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ISIS says it controls Palma, northern Mozambique

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                The Islamic State group claims responsibility for the attack on Palma, in the province of Cabo Delgado, in northern Mozambique.  An attack which, according to the authorities in Maputo, would have killed dozens of people and caused the flight of thousands of refugees since Wednesday.  The jihadist organization to which the Mozambican Islamist group Ansar al-Sunna has joined, affirms " <em>control the city</em> Coastal, a few kilometers from the gas megaproject of French Total, a project which has been suspended again since Saturday.

                                    <p>According to the communication from the Islamic State group, the jihadists have taken control of the city of Palma after three days of fighting.  They would have killed 55 soldiers and " <em>Christians </em>Or Westerners, destroyed government buildings and banks.

For their part, the Mozambican forces estimate the number of people killed at several dozen and say they are regaining ground by facing pockets of jihadist resistance. Witnesses among the civilians told the Portuguese-speaking editorial staff of RFI how they had fled, by the thousands, on foot inland, or by sea on makeshift boats.

Palma, after Mocimboa da Praia

This attack follows the capture, last August, of Mocimboa da Praia, an important port in the province which is still under the control of the jihadists, while this port made it possible to supply the entire north of the region and in particular the construction site. Mozambican gas extraction and liquefaction process, led by Total.

The Islamic noose therefore seems to be tightening in this region, on the part of the Islamist group Ansar al-Sunna. Commonly referred to as Al-Shabab, which means ” young people ”, Not to be confused with the Somali Shebab, it was created in 2007 and its fighting has intensified since 2017 in the province of Cabo Delgado.

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The group is recruiting in the neighboring country, Tanzania, and it joined the Islamic State group in 2018. It has thus become a component of the branch ” Islamic State in Central Africa Which itself has just been inscribed on the list of terrorist organizations by the United States and of which another component – the Allied Democratic Forces, the ADF – is carrying out operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The jihadist attack in Palma came the day after Total announced a relaunch of its gas project. Some experts, contacted by RFI believe that the surprise attack of the jihadists had been prepared for a long time, after three months of lull. There is therefore not necessarily a direct link with the announcement of the relaunch of the gas project by Total, last Tuesday, the day before the offensive.

Hundreds of gas site employees evacuated

But in fact, the chaos in Palma has prompted Total to once again give up the resumption of work on the Afungi peninsula, a few kilometers away. Especially since thousands of civilians tried to take refuge on the highly protected site of the operator and its subcontractors. Hundreds of employees have been repatriated to Pemba, the main town in Cabo Delgado, further south, which is not in jihadist hands. Or even further in Maputo, the Mozambican capital.

More generally, the resumption of jihadist attacks is a very hard blow to the development of the Cabo Delgado region, while it was this which attracted the most investments around Total’s flagship project, $ 20 billion on its own. .

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Read also: Mozambique: thousands of civilians flee the city of Palma at the hands of the jihadists

EU military aid

Until now, the Mozambican authorities had refused any help from SADEC neighboring countries to manage the jdihadist offensive and its consequences. For the moment, only foreign mercenaries – in particular South Africans – came to reinforce the Mozambican soldiers.

But Maputo has just accepted European aid for military training in which Portugal, the former colonial power, which has headed the European Council since the start of the year, will participate, as well as France, whose territory of Mayotte is at a few nautical miles.

The Mozambican government is also currently discussing with UN agencies to organize aid to refugees, already nearly 700,000 people displaced in three years.


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