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Mozambique’s army retakes Palma from jihadists after 12 days

MOZAMBIQUE said that its military had retaken control of the coastal town of Palma late on Monday evening, 12 days after it had been overrun by Islamic State jihadists.

An army spokesman said that a significant number of Islamist fighters were killed in the operation.

Scores of civilians were killed and at least 11,000 displaced after the militants invaded Palma in Mozambique’s oil-rich Cabo Delgado region on March 24.

It was the biggest attack in the African nation’s northern province since the jihadists, known as al-Shabab, launched an insurgency in 2017.

French energy giant Total suspended operations at its Afungi liquid natural gas plant near Palma while thousands of civilians fled to safety.

According to the United Nations, nearly 10,000 people escaped the attack, many of whom were evacuated by boat to the city of Pemba with the support of the World Food Programme (WFP).

Its spokeswoman Shelly Thakral said that some 50,000 civilians were affected, with the WFP establishing bases of support at a number of locations.

Sky News International said that its team was the first on scene in the aftermath of the attack, describing “bodies still lying in the street and multiple shops, offices and homes, as well as a hospital that had been vandalised and set alight.”

Earlier this year the Morning Star reported on allegations of human rights abuses committed by Islamists, Mozambique’s armed forces and South African private security company the Dyck Advisory Group.

According to Amnesty International, villagers reported kidnappings, looting and “chopping” or “beheading” of civilians, including children, by the jihadists, who they said frequently burn down homes.

Government forces were also accused of extrajudicial executions of al-Shabab fighters and of burying their dismembered bodies in mass graves.

More than half a million people have been displaced and hundreds killed in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region since the Islamist insurgency began. 

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