Insurgents launched an unprecedented assault on Nangade town on Tuesday morning, killing up to three people, burning dozens of houses and causing many to flee into the bush.
The insurgents were first sighted early on Tuesday in the fields around Nakaindili, about 3km from the district headquarters, sparking panic in the town. One local source claims there were about 10 to 12 men in the group.
The attack began at around 09:00 when insurgents entered the newly formed Chitunda neighbourhood of Nangade town, which has never before been attacked by insurgents, and set fire to between 20-30 homes and buildings. Up to three people were killed, one local source told Zitamar. One of the victims had fled to Nangade from an attack on Mitope, 50km away, on Friday 22 July.
Islamic State (IS) acknowledged the attack on social media the next day, claiming to have beheaded three people and burned more than 20 homes.
Initial reports suggest that security forces based in Nangade engaged the insurgents. The Lesotho Defence Force, which operates in Nangade on behalf of the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique, killed at least two insurgents and captured up to five.
Many fled Nangade in the wake of the attack. One source told Zitamar that the military tried to prevent civilians escaping into the bush as it would be difficult to distinguish between them and the insurgents.
Besides a number of high-profile incidents, such as the capture of the towns of Mocímboa da Praia in 2020 and Palma in 2021, direct attacks on district headquarters are rare. Usually, insurgents prefer to cause chaos by attacking vulnerable rural communities, displacing large numbers of people who then seek shelter in the main towns in the district.