The African Union pleads for urgent international assistance in the wake of another ISIS episode – an armed campaign in a calculated attack in the coastal town of Palma, Mozambique that left dozens killed, 8,000 displaced and countless more missing. Insurrectionists pounced on Palma on March 24, raiding buildings, beheading locals and forcing thousands to flee in all directions.
This strategic attack on Palma is the aftermath of a violent armed campaign that struck the overall district of Cabo Delgado, a gas-rich province. Insurrectionists have continually plagued Cabo Delgado since 2017. ISIS has officially claimed responsibility for the ruthless attack in Palma, commenting that the attack was led by their branch – Central African Province Division. This branch is also commonly responsible for attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
ISIS released a statement via its own Amaq “news” station claiming the siege that led to killing 55 Mozambican troops and Christians, including some foreign contractors” through various types of weapons. The unforgiving violence has killed more than 2,600 people and has caused 700,000 refugees from various African nations.
Mozambique’s historically weak, poorly trained and under equipped military was deployed in Cabo Delgado to face off what Dyck Advisory Group (DAG), a South African private military firm, has called an enemy with heavy weaponry and a “very well planned and coordinated attack.” Mozambique contracted DAG for extra military assistance and strategy planning. The town and beaches are scattered with bodies “with heads and without,” according to Col Lionel Dyke of Dyck Advisory Group.
The US government has responded to the urgent call and will provide medical and communications gear to supplement the Mozambique government against what analysts call a group that has “steadily increased its military capacity and the ability to stage sophisticated attacks.” Additionally, the US Embassy in Mozambique committed to training Mozambican forces for two months.
“It started by doing a game of cat-and-mouse with security forces, going to villages, attacking civilians, destroying property and then running away once security forces arrive. They’ve moved into being a serious enemy to security forces and even targeting military posts.” Zeinada Machado, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera.
To defeat a seemingly endlessly evolving group requires a tireless government committed to a consistent military strategy and that values peace over power – Mozambique has failed again to deliver the bare minimum of safety for its people.
This recent attack is dangerously close in proximity to Africa’s single biggest investment project – liquefied natural gas projects led by Total and ExxonMobil & other multinational corporations. Total had already suspended operations and evacuated staff in late December after insurgents led a series of raids uncomfortably close to its compound.
The home of 75,000, Palma, is approximately six miles away from the multibillion-dollar project. Despite this, Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi on Wednesday downplayed the latest attack as “not the biggest.” A question directed to President Nyusi would be, How many beheaded bodies laying on the street would be enough to create a more robust military plan of action? How many opportunities of financial stability will Mozambique have to forfeit? Mozambique needs leaders that are bold enough to change the generational curse of the blood-soaked land.
Last year, the conflict scaled to a particularly gruesome phase, inciting United Nations chief Antonio Guterres to comment on the peak of massacres, beheadings and kidnapping of women and children. Some analysts have come forward to suggest that authorities were warned of an attack on Palma but failed to act. Mozambican leaders’ failure to act proactively causes another sweep of lives – it is a growing concern that massacres become increasingly normalized in African nations.
This recurring cycle of pain and mourning will continue to plague the nation unless a revolutionary band of leadership and commitment arises to face a multidimensional and relentless enemy. If Mozambique does not learn how to protect its nation, it will become a barren battleground for the ruthless. After three years of being severely victimized by insurgents – Mozambique’s lessons of defeat must be analyzed and adapted in the face of a modernizing and severe threat.
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