Insurgents have carried out a series of attacks over the last week in a coastal area of Macomia in the administrative post of Mucojo, burning houses and on occasion killing civilians in an apparent attempt to clear out the local population.
Between Wednesday 30 September and Friday 2 October, insurgents attacked Mucojo Sede, which is the headquarters of the administrative post, and the villages of Pangane, Rueia, Nambija 2, Manica, Messano, Crimize, and Naunde.
Government security and defence forces (FDS) were stationed at Mucojo Sede and Pangane, but sources say the FDS fled when they realised they were outnumbered by the attackers. In Pangane it took the attackers two attempts to dislodge the FDS position, but when they succeeded they burned the official residence of the local chief, and took a number of villagers hostage inside a local mosque, according to two local residents currently seeking refuge on the island of Matemo.
One source fled fighting in Mucojo Sede and spoke to Zitamar News on 2 October from a hiding place in the bush near Goludo, to the south of Mucojo sede, where he was with members of the FDS who had also fled.
He said helicopters had arrived on the first day of the attacks, 30 September, which stopped the attacks temporarily. But as soon as the helicopters left, the insurgents started moving around the area at will, the source said.
More than 1,000 people displaced by the attacks have arrived in Macomia town over the last few days, according to Saide Faine who lives in the Nanga A neighbourhood, where many new arrivals are staying in the local primary school – without basic food, bedding, or hygiene conditions, Faine said.
Other refugees fled by sea, going from Pangane to the island of Makalowe. From there they set sail on two boats to the island of Matemo – but one sank along the way, due to being heavily overloaded. Bodies washed up along the shore, according to a source who had spoken to a person in Matemo.
Those who make it to Macomia say the atmosphere is tense. Locals fear an attack on the town by the insurgents who last week attacked Bilibiza, to the south. There were rumours that the insurgents had told victims that they were planning to mark the third anniversary of the start of the violent insurgency, on 4 October, with an incursion into Macomia town. Many of the town’s residents spent the nights of 3, 4, and 5 October sleeping in the bush after hearing shooting in the town, a local source told Zitamar.
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.