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Armed forces recover Muidumbe after nearly two weeks under terrorist control

Mozambique's government forces have regained control of at least one key village in Muidumbe district, though the circumstances of its retaking remain unclear

The town of Namacande, seat of Muidumbe district in Cabo Delgado, is back under the control of the Defence and Security Forces and has been since Monday, almost two weeks after insurgents took control of it and other villages in the district.

According to Pinnacle News, a news website with correspondents throughout Cabo Delgado, the Mozambican forces, along with soldiers “of the white race”, started fighting terrorists in Muidumbe last Sunday, having arrived in the village by helicopter and in armoured cars.

In a message to its Telegram group, Pinnacle wrote that, during the combat, some terrorists were captured and then transported towards Montepuez. The Notícias de Defesa website, whose ownership remains unknown but which is also behind a propaganda site for ruling party Frelimo, published pictures apparently showing government forces in Muidumbe, under a heading suggesting 16 insurgents were killed.

A source at Mozambique’s Ministry of National Defence confirmed to Zitamar News earlier on Thursday that Namacande is free of insurgents, but didn’t know how and since when. The source added, however, that a strong military contingent is not only in the town, but also in other villages of the district. Another source based in Pemba said that the village has been free since Monday.

The insurgents once again leave behind a trail of destruction; many people were beheaded and others shot dead, houses were burned, and public and private infrastructure destroyed.

A Mueda resident told Zitamar that on Tuesday he saw military helicopters flying towards Muidumbe district, while another resident said that local war veterans in Mueda split into two groups, one heading to fight in Muidumbe and the other staying to defend Mueda.

Some observers of the conflict believe preventing the occupation of Muidumbe is an important step to stop an invasion of Mueda, home to the main military base in northern Cabo Delgado. But one security analyst told Zitamar the insurgents’ attack on Muidumbe may have been intended to keep Mozambique’s military “pinned down” in Mueda, to stop it from trying to retake Mocímboa da Praia and other coastal areas under insurgent control.

Uncertainty since last week over whether insurgents would invade Mueda,  led to many locals leaving the town out of fear. A local resident told Zitamar that shop and restaurant owners are transferring their goods to other parts of the country, and that bank branches have been closed in the town, with only ATMs of ABSA, BCI and Millennium Bim banks operating. The Mueda Rural Hospital also closed its doors, and in-patients were discharged.

This article was produced by Zitamar and Mediafax under the Cabo Ligado project, in collaboration with ACLED and with support from Crisis Group. The contents of the article are the sole responsibility of Zitamar News.