Military Retakes Mozambique Town Palma After Terrorist Attack

Mozambique’s Military says a significant number of militants have been killed in the counter-offensive in an ongoing battle in the coastal town of Palma after the city was taken over by an ISIL-affiliated group. While civilians are beginning to return to the city, more than 11,000 people were displaced during the past two weeks. The attack took place on March  24 in the town of Palma which has a population of 75,000. The Islamic State (IS) had claimed responsibility for the attack which has left dozens of civilians dead. Communications with the town remain cut and the total number of deaths and missing people are still unclear. 

Commander Chongo Vidigal, leader of military operations to regain control of Palma, said the area was safe and the nearby gas plant was secure. “The airfield area was the only one we needed to clear and we did that [on Sunday]. It’s completely safe,” said Commander Viddiga. “I think that it is a significant number of terrorists who were shot down,” he said, adding authorities would clarify the exact number later, reported Al Jazeera.  Meanwhile, Cabo Delgado’s Governor Valygi Tualibo who recently visited the town, said he was greatly satisfied with what he saw and claimed the town was under 100 percent control by Mozambican authorities.

The recent attack shows the increased need to refocus the attention back to Africa and provide support to battle the militants present. It is to be noted that the focus of the most recent attack was also on foreigners that were present in the area. The difficulty faced by the military in retaking the town shows that the militants are highly organized and skilled. The militant’s affiliation to ISIS represents the fact that they are no longer interested in peace but want to promote violence. To stabilize the region, the state needs to work on developing the infrastructure and uplifting the economy. With Cabo Delgado being one of the poorest regions, it is highly unlikely that the government will succeed in securing the state until they tackle poverty. It is also very clear that the militants are being hugely funded and trained by ISIS in some manner. The escalating violence needs to end soon if the country wants to avoid being turned into another middle east. The government needs to put more effort into protecting civilians and promoting equality in the country. It should also make use of overseas support in any way it can and make the most out of it. 

During the attack in Palma, Foreign workers from a nearby gas project were also targeted. The gas projects are worth 60 billion dollars and include major oil companies such as the French Energy group Total. Just hours before the attack, Total had announced that it would resume work at its 26 billion dollar project after it was halted in January due to security concerns. The gas project is one of the biggest investments in Africa so far. The Province of Cabo Delgado has been the point of attack since 2017 and despite it, workers and contractors flew in regularly to develop the project. 

A private security company from South Africa has been helping the military in the battle according to BBC, there is no official acknowledgment of its involvement. BBC also reported that “Mozambique’s government requested more training to be given to military and an unspecified number of US military instructors are in place.” Portugal has also said it will send troops in the upcoming weeks to provide training.

Karuna Balasubramanian
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