The Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP) claimed responsibility for a raid that overran security forces in Mocímboa da Praia in northern Mozambique, highlighting the growing strength of the Islamist insurgency in the north of the country.
Mocímboa da Praia is a coastal town about 60 km south of the ‘Gas City’ that is being established on the Afungi peninsula to exploit the vast natural gas reserves recently discovered in Cabo Delgado, a comparatively poor and predominantly Muslim province.
National police chief Bernadino Rafael told a press conference on 23 March that “groups of criminals” had attacked the town and that “the defence and security forces are doing everything in their power to restore peace and order”.
On the following day, government spokesman Filimao Suaze said, “By morning, the criminals had retreated, leaving behind a trail of blood, bodies, and missing persons, who were allegedly taken by the criminals to an unknown location”.
On the same day, the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency released a statement saying the movement’s ISCAP affiliate had attacked five army and police facilities in Mocímboa da Praia, killing and injuring dozens of personnel and capturing large quantities of weapons, ammunition, and other equipment before withdrawing safely.
It subsequently released a video showing militants removing Kalashnikov rifles from what appeared to be a police barracks where dead bodies could be seen.
A photograph also circulated that purportedly showed Mocímboa da Praia residents welcoming armed militants travelling in a small truck.
On 25 March, images emerged showing militants – one armed with an RPG-7 rocket launcher - standing outside the burned-out district police headquarters in Quissanga, another coastal town 120 km south of Mocímboa da Praia, as well as a destroyed ZBF-05 armoured personnel carrier.
The Mozambican media reported that Quissanga had been attacked on that day.
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