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Hundreds flee as Bilibiza attacked again by Cabo Delgado insurgents

A fresh attack on the town of Bilibiza has confounded hopes that life there was getting back to normal

Hundreds of people arrived in an accommodation centre in the district of Metuge in Cabo Delgado on Friday and Saturday, following an insurgent attack on the village of Bilibiza on Thursday 24 September in which eight people were killed, many abducted, and most of the village’s houses burned.

Insurgents arrived at around 4pm on Thursday, and started by calling a meeting with the villagers where they told them they had “lost confidence” in them, accusing the villagers of stealing things from a  former insurgent base that had been captured by the defence and security forces (FDS).

A villager who arrived in the city of Pemba on Saturday told Zitamar News that at the meeting, the insurgents demanded villagers hand over their money and mobile phones. Once that had been done, the insurgents chose boys and girls that they wanted to take with them, and sent the rest of the people away and instructed them to leave the village, the source said.

The source said most people complied with the instruction, and that most of the houses in the village were burned. The source walked with his wife and four children to the village of Nivico (also known as Moja), where they found many other refugees, he said. He and his family caught a bus in Nivico to Pemba.

Another source in Pemba told Zitamar he had spoken to relatives who had been living in Bilibiza, who were now in a displaced persons’ camp in Metuge, with some 700 others from Bilibiza.

At celebrations of armed forces day in Maputo on Saturday, Mozambique’s President, Filipe Nyusi, said government forces had repelled an attack at Bilibiza, without giving further details.

The attack on Bilibiza also caused fear in Macomia, the district to the north of Quissinga, where people in the main town spent the night hiding in the bush after fear spread that Bilibiza’s attackers would target Macomia next.

Bilibiza has seen repeated attacks, and has changed hands a number of times, this year.

It was first hit in January with a major attack that also destroyed an agricultural college and teacher training college in the town — two significant pieces of infrastructure at the provincial level.

Insurgents took control of much of the district and area around Bilibiza, but faced increasing offensives from government forces in May and June. In June, Zitamar reported that insurgents around Bilibiza had been forcing people in outlying villages to move into Bilibiza.

In July, claims emerged that government troops had captured two bases in the area, one at Cagembe, and one referred to as ‘Base K’. One of these may be the base referred to by the insurgents as having since been looted by the population.

By late August, people in the area around Bilibiza reported that life was getting back to normal, and that they were no longer living in fear of the insurgency. Last week’s attack appears to have changed that.

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.