Attack on port town of Palma has forced hundreds of people to flee amid fierce fighting


Photo posted on ISIS account purportedly shows insurgents who attacked Palma, Mozambique.Photo posted on ISIS account purportedly shows insurgents who attacked Palma, Mozambique. Photograph: Twitter


The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for an attack on a town in northern Mozambique last week that forced hundreds of foreign contractors to flee amid fierce fighting.

Local police and soldiers were reported to have secured control of most of Palma on Monday, after hundreds of Islamist insurgents who overran the small port last week withdrew to surrounding forests and fields leaving a trail of devastation.

In a statement issued on official media channels, Isis claimed insurgents killed more than 55 members of local security forces and Christians, including those from “Crusader nations”, and destroyed official buildings and banks.

Palma is a base for many foreign contractors who have been working for a multibillion-dollar liquified natural gas project run by the French energy company Total.

Security sources said insurgents had infiltrated the area around the town before that attack, hiding weaponry in caches. Many were disguised as community members with some wearing army or police uniforms.

Government infrastructure in the town was targeted in a systematic manner, with the local police station and military base overrun and destroyed, while at least two banks were raided, local security sources said.

A group of at least 120 insurgents came from the northern regions of Cabo Delgado, while a similar size group was said to have crossed over from Tanzania to reinforce the attackers on the second day of the assault, the sources said.

Analysts at the International Crisis Group say the biggest cohort of foreigners fighting within the ranks of ASWJ are from Tanzania.

The three-year insurgency in Cabo Delgado province has killed more than 2,600 people and displaced an estimated 670,000, according to the UN.