A “significant” number of rebels were shot dead by Mozambican forces in operations to retake the northeastern city of Palma, which fell into the hands of jihadi groups after a bloody attack March 24, the military said Sunday.
“It is not yet over … but a significant number of terrorists have been shot,” the commander of operations in Palma, Chongo Vidigal, told reporters.
Eleven days ago, armed groups attacked the strategic port city in a carefully prepared raid, launched just a few kilometers from a multibillion-euro mega liquefied natural gas project led by the French group Total.
The first images of the city of 75,000 inhabitants seen since the attack were broadcast on local television. The footage showed a few bodies lying in the streets, houses in ruins and vehicles in ashes. A few civilians were collecting food.
The attack, claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, officially killed dozens of civilians, police and soldiers. The actual number of victims is not yet known.
The French group Total has evacuated staff from its gas site on the Afungi Peninsula and the project has come to a standstill.
For several days, the soldiers have been trying to retake Palma, which fell into rebel hands on the night of March 26 after an attack considered the biggest escalation since the violence began more than three years ago.
Thousands of troops have been deployed, but since the first attacks in 2017, government forces have been unable to effectively fight the rebels terrorizing the impoverished Cabo Delgado province on the border with Tanzania.
Locally referred to as Al-Shabab which translates to mean “the youth” in Arabic, they pledged allegiance to the IS group.
About 11,000 people were displaced by the latest attack, according to the International Organization for Migration. More than 670,000 people had already been forced to leave their homes because of the violence in the region, according to the U.N.
The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project or ACLED, a nonprofit organization tracking global armed violence, recorded 2,600 were killed before the attack on Palma, half of them civilians.
Source: Voice of America