Security forces of Mozambique say 59 terrorists were killed and six of the terrorist camps destroyed.
Islamist insurgents have captured a heavily-defended port in the far northern Mozambique town of Mocimboa da Praia, close to the site of natural gas projects worth some $60 billion, local media reported on Wednesday.
It was one of several attacks on the town - 60 km (37 miles) south of the projects being developed by oil majors like France’s Total - this year as insurgents with links to Islamic State have stepped up attacks in the region. Its port is used for cargo deliveries to the developments.
Local news site Zitamar said the port had been seized on Tuesday, when naval forces ran out of ammunition to keep insurgents at bay after days of fighting in Mocimboa da Praia.
However, the Defense and Security Forces of Mozambique (FDS) announced Thursday afternoon that 59 terrorists were killed over the past week in the country’s northern province of Cabo Delgado.
According to the Joint Command of the FDS in a statement, the terrorists were trying to occupy the district of Mocimboa da Praia for a week, and they infiltrated the communities before attacking local villages.
“In the course of actions to defend populations against terrorist actions, the Defense and Security Forces have achieved various operational results, highlighting 59 human casualties from the terrorists, and the destruction of six camps and means used by terrorists,” the statement said.
The FDS reiterated in the statement its commitment to restoring public order and security in the area, adding their counter-offensive operations have been carried out to neutralize those terrorists who use the population as a shield in the affected regions.
“We call for the collaboration of everyone to report the existence or strange movement (of armed men) in any part of the national territory,” it said.
Earlier reports says attacks began in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado in 2017, and have rapidly gathered pace this year with insurgents seizing key towns for brief periods and increasingly hitting military or strategic targets.
That came after the group, known as Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, pledged allegiance to Islamic State last year, and IS subsequently began claiming the local group’s attacks, including another strike on Mocimboa da Praia earlier this year.
This week, Islamic State claimed via its media channels to have taken over two military bases in the vicinity of Mocimboa da Praia, resulting in the deaths of a number of Mozambique soldiers and the capture of weaponry ranging from machine guns to rocket-propelled grenades.
The remote region is far from Mozambique’s main central city of Beira and the capital Maputo in the far south.