Mozambique government troops, supported by mercenary helicopters, are attempting to retake the town
Insurgents have again taken control of the town of Mocímboa da Praia, forcing government security and defence forces out in a heavy firefight which began before 5 o’clock this morning, and was still continuing at the time of writing.
Locals fled after the shooting started, some into the bush around the town, and others along the coast, a local source told Zitamar News. A photo of people hiding in a wooded area was posted by Facebook-hosted news site Pinnacle News.
Pinnacle said three helicopters are flying over the town, and an account of the attack by a Mozambique-focused security analyst said government forces supported by helicopter gunships operated by Dyck Advisory Group are trying to take back control.
One account of the attack, sent to Pinnacle News on WhatsApp at 9:38 on Saturday morning and shared on the Pinnacle’s Facebook page, said the insurgents had taken the military barracks. The message said locals had been complaining of maltreatment at the hands of government forces — who, the message said, had killed 15 people on Thursday.
Another message shared on Pinnacle said insurgents were positioned at different points of entry into the town, armed with various types of arms “including bazookas”.
The attack comes just over three months since the last time insurgents took control of Mocímboa da Praia — the town where the violent insurgency first started in October 2017.
Insurgents appear to be capitalising on local discontent at mistreatment by police — as reported by Zitamar News yesterday, and by the Cabo Ligado reporting project earlier in the week — and today were reportedly promising the local population that they would not hurt them.
Logistics consortium quits Mocímboa da Praia port over ‘heightened threat’
Mocímboa da Praia port is one port of call for a new domestic shipping service launched this month, which will run from Maputo in the south as far as the LNG projects on the Afungi peninsula in the far north. Mocímboa da Praia is the last call before Afungi.
Earlier this week, a consortium of logistics companies running the Mocímboa da Praia port said it had agreed to hand back the port concession to state rail and ports company CFM, to “award to a consortium better able to secure the port and conduct operations in a heightened threat-level environment.” The companies said that the attack by insurgents in March this year “resulted in an increased militarisation of the town and port,” and threat levels remained “concerningly high.”
The group’s concession had already been under renegotiation for over a year, it said, but following the March attack, the ALS Alliance and Alistair Group consortium — which was formed just before the first attack on Mocímboa in 2017 — evacuated their staff and that of other organisations “literally off the beach, using their own boats, launches and tugs.”
However, they said, “the resulting delay in negotiations and the militarisation of the port area following the attack caused the Alliance serious concern after their personnel returned to the port following their initial evacuation. The Alliance bravely continued to manage the discharge of emergency relief cargoes at the port at zero cost to the government for 4 weeks following the attack, but the threat-levels in the area remained concerningly high.”
This article was produced by Zitamar News 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.