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Insurgents and state forces claim victory in bloody battle for Matemo island

Police claim to have killed 10 insurgents in fighting on Matemo island this week, while IS claims its jihadis killed 7 police or soldiers

Fierce fighting between insurgents and Mozambique’s Defense and Security Forces (FDS) on Matemo island in Cabo Delgado has caused more than a dozen casualties over the last three days, with each side claiming to have inflicted significant losses on the other.

On Tuesday night, insurgents dressed in the uniform of Mozambican Defense and Security Forces (FDS) attacked and occupied Matemo island in Ibo district for the second time in two months, burning houses and clashing with government soldiers. As of Thursday, a militant presence remained on the island.

According to a local source, around 20 insurgents wearing military uniform arrived on Matemo on Tuesday evening via the Liwelko neighbourhood, claiming they were there to maintain security, but by 1am huts they began to set huts ablaze. Sources in contact with relatives on nearby Quirambo island reported spotting an FDS boat at about 3:50 AM, which was joined 40 minutes later by two military helicopters.

On Thursday 17 March, Islamic State social media channels claimed insurgents engaged the government security forces and local militia, killing seven and wounding others. This has not yet been corroborated by other sources.

On the same day, the Police of the Republic of Mozambique also claimed to have fought insurgents, killing ten. A source told Zitamar on Thursday that only about five insurgents remained on the island and they have been surrounded by special forces and local militia, supported by helicopters and boats. It is not yet clear if there have been any civilian casualty.

A source currently in Pemba claimed to have spoken to a militant in Matemo via a relative’s phone. The insurgent reportedly spoke Kimwani with a Mocímboa da Praia accent and told the source that they had taken hostages and his relative would not be released unless he came to Matemo himself.

Matemo island was previously attacked on 1 February, with at least three killed and many buildings burnt down, including the local hospital.

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