Islamic State-backed insurgents have occupied Mucojo village in the Macomia district of Cabo Delgado province since Sunday after the Mozambican Armed Defence Forces (FADM) abandoned their position, local sources told Zitamar News.
FADM were accused of killing at least three civilians suspected of being insurgents between 16-18 January. The three civilians were summarily executed by Mozambican soldiers in the villages of Rueia, Nambija 2 and Nacutoco surrounding Mucojo, according to Carta de Moçambique, but one local source claimed up to seven may have been killed. Insurgents issued a threat to attack the FADM outpost in Mucojo in revenge, prompting Mozambican troops to withdraw.
On 21 January, insurgents occupied the village, which is strategically located along the ‘Estrada Velha’, or old road, which provides access to the whole coast of Macomia and the Catupa forest, where insurgents are thought to be dug in. This is the first significant settlement to be held by the insurgents since the Rwanda Security Forces drove them out of Mocímboa da Praia and Mbau in August 2021.
Security forces operations to retake control of the coast are reported to be underway. On Monday, a FADM helicopter fired at an insurgent boat near Quiterajo, approximately 35km north of Mucojo, sources told Zitamar.
However, there does not yet appear to have been a serious effort by ground forces to recapture the village, despite the presence of troops from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission based in Macomia town, 40km to the west. Zitamar understands that heavy rain has made key roads impassable, preventing the movement of troops.
The Macomia coast is a vital supply route for the insurgency. In December, the head of the Mozambican army, Major General Tiago Nampele, announced that security forces were planning an operation to deny the insurgents access to the sea, but the capture of Mucojo has likely undermined this effort.
This article was produced by Zitamar News under the Cabo Ligado project, in collaboration with Mediafax and ACLED. The contents of the article are the sole responsibility of Zitamar News.