Mozambican security forces may have killed the leaders of the Islamist militants who have terrorized communities in the central and northern districts of Cabo Delgado, President Filipe Nyusi said.
In an interview late Saturday on state television channel TVM, Nyusi said top officials were still trying to confirm their deaths which appear to have occurred after Thursday’s attack and occupation of the Macomia district headquarters.
“We have information that senior officers of this force have been slaughtered, which we can consider to be the leadership, but the Defence and Security Forces will confirm this at a proper moment,” President Nyusi said. “We are learning how to deal with that force and we are encouraging the Defence and Security Forces to fight them.”
Since 2017, a shadowy Islamist group has wreaked havoc among communities in the gas-rich north, burning huts, decapitating villagers, and killing more than 1,100 people, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.
The jihadists have grown bolder over the past two months, stepping up attacks by destroying more important infrastructure such as government headquarters buildings, bank branches, and looting money. They have now ventured into towns as part of a declared campaign to establish an Islamist caliphate.
Outnumbering the government troops, the militants launched a fresh attack last Thursday, striking Macomia district in an early morning assault.
Air force support from private military companies arrived in Macomia from Pemba to repel the attackers but without troops on the ground it was difficult to control the situation, unnamed police source told AFP. Clashes have been raging in the area since. The headquarters of the districts of Mocimboa da Praia, Quissanga, Muidumbe were attacked and assaulted before Macomia.
Despite President Filipe Nyusi’s promises, neither the police nor the army, recently shored up by foreign private security companies, has succeeded in preventing attacks.
In all the towns in which they attack, militants hoist a black flag, with white inscriptions in Arabic, the same used by the Islamic State. But after a while they retreat to the woods, leaving behind a trail of destruction.