Dozens of people have been killed and thousands forced to flee after hundreds of Islamist militants attacked a coastal town in Cabo Delgado, a province rich in oil and gas reserves in northern Mozambique, on Wednesday 24 March.
Islamist terrorist group Islamic State (also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) boasted on Twitter on Monday of killing at least 55 people, including Christians, Mozambique soldiers, state nationals and “crusaders” (understood to mean Westerners) in a prolonged assault on Palma, which is close to major international gas developments.
The number of casualties is unclear because many are still unaccounted for; however, a witness said the town and beaches are strewn with bodies “with heads and without”. Seven people were killed trying to escape a siege of a hotel, where expatriate workers took shelter as jihadists rampaged through the town, attacking shops, banks and a military barracks.
Hundreds of others, both locals and foreign workers, were rescued by boat. According to local reports, a vessel with about 1,400 people on board arrived at the port of Pemba, about 250km (155 miles) south of Palma, on Sunday.
Hundreds more people, including children, have fled on foot through the bush and are now arriving at Namoto, about 50km (30 miles) from Palma, on the border with Tanzania.
“We have many children here,” said a survivor who reached Namoto after walking three days without food and water. “Many children are dying in the bush … People have been captured and others have died.” He said he was unable to give a number for the hundreds of displaced sheltering in Namoto because “it continues to increase”.
More than 2,500 people are estimated to have been killed and 700,000 displaced since 2017 when militant Islamists began a brutal campaign to establish an Islamist caliphate in Cabo Delgado province. In one of the worst attacks last year, the jihadists turned a village football pitch into an execution ground where they beheaded more than 50 people in three days of savage violence.
Barnabas Fund’s contacts in the area report that anyone who refuses to support the jihadists and embrace their beliefs is attacked, and their property set on fire. Thus Christians who refuse to deny Christ are amongst the victims.
The militant Islamist organisation called Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, known locally as Al Shabaab (not the Somali-based group), is linked to Islamic State and has effectively gained control of an area of Cabo Delgado.