Islamic State claims deadly attack on northern Mozambique town

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Islamic State said on Monday its fighters had carried out an attack on the Mozambique town of Palma, where dozens were killed, thousands displaced and some remain missing.

Insurgents hit the town, adjacent to gas projects worth $60 billion, with a three-pronged attack on Wednesday. A security source directly involved in efforts to secure the town said fighting was ongoing on Monday.

The government said on Sunday that Palma was not controlled by the insurgents and it was working to secure the area. It confirmed that dozens of people had died, including seven when their convoy of cars was ambushed during an escape attempt.

Islamic State claimed the attack via its Amaq news agency, saying its fighters had taken control of the town after days of clashes with security forces. They had killed at least 55 people including a number of soldiers, destroyed and taken control of buildings including factories and banks, and seized vehicles, it said.

Officials at Mozambique’s defence ministry and its national police could not be reached by phone on Monday and did not immediately reply to messages. The country’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, where Palma is located, has been home since 2017 to a simmering Islamist insurgency linked to Islamic State.

Initially known mainly for crude beheadings, insurgents last year began regularly beating back the army to take over entire towns. Palma, a logistical hub, is near gas developments run by oil majors such as Total.

An aid worker said some people fleeing the violence had been rescued by boats, which took them from Palma to Pemba, the provincial capital. A security source in touch with government-allied forces said many had fled to the beach in the hope of being rescued.

Businessman Tokyo Sexwale on affected areas:

Reuters could not independently verify the accounts, as most communications with Palma were cut on Wednesday. The owners or managers of some of the vessels in the area either were not reachable, declined to comment or said their boats did not conduct any rescues.

Lionel Dyck, who runs a private security firm contracted by the government, said on Monday his helicopters had rescued at least 230 people.

Three aid workers, who declined to be named because they are not authorised to speak to the media, said tens of thousands of people could be displaced following the attack. The total number of dead and missing remains unclear.

At least one South African is among those killed. Britain’s Times newspaper reported that a British national had died.

Institute of Security Studies concerned over growing insurgency in Mozambique:

Situation in Palma remains volatile: