New terrorist attacks in northern Mozambique cause mass flight of civilians

Cabo Delgado was ravaged by two major militant offensives. Armed groups, allegedly linked to ISIS, targeted the town of Macomia and the villages of Cajerene and Missufine, exacerbating the region’s displacement crisis. As the violence escalates, the Church intensifies its humanitarian response in northern Mozambique.

The situation in the province of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, took a turn for the worse in the past few days, with two new major attacks by terrorists against local villages and towns, including Macomia, which is home to a military base. According to information gathered by the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), hundreds of local residents have fled and are seeking refuge in the bush or trying to reach safer ground.

The "barbarity" during the three-day jihadist attacks
The “barbarity” during the three-day jihadist attacks

The attacks took place between 10-11 May. In the early hours of Friday 10 May, the terrorists, who claim allegiance to the Islamic State, attacked the strategic town of Macomia, 180 kilometres from the provincial capital, Pemba.

Macomia had already been the target of attacks in June 2020, but had generally been considered safer than the rest of the region in the past years, due to the presence of a base of the Mozambican Defence and Security Forces. However, it was precisely the base which was the target of attacks, leading to a drawn-out battle that lasted until the early afternoon of Saturday, at which time the insurgents left. Daniel Eiró, a journalist of the diocesan radio station in Pemba, told ACN that “the situation in Macomia is really bad. The insurgents arrived at dawn, and the population is fleeing”.

This attack is further proof that the terrorists have become bolder in the past months. In a video sent to ACN, a fleeing civilian can be seen saying that “there’s a terrible firefight going on right now in the Macomia area and the people who remained in the town need help”, explaining that the insurgents hit “with everything”.

According to the reports from the population gathered by ACN’s local sources, the terrorists left behind a hugetrail of destruction and vandalism of homes and social infrastructure, and even corpses strewn across thestreets, but there is no official account of the number of civilian victims.

Hours later, the villages of Missufine and Cajerene, only 70 kilometres from Pemba, were also attacked, resulting in a second mass flight of civilians and the burning of several houses.

The attacks were independently confirmed to ACN by different local Church sources.

Six and a half years of terror

The ongoing insurgency in Cabo Delgado, in the north of Mozambique, involving a struggle between militant Islamists seeking to establish an Islamic state and the Mozambican security forces, began in October 2017 and has already caused thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced.

Mons. Diamantino Antunes, Bishop of Tete. Visit of Mumemo, during the meeting of the Bishop Conference of Mozambique.
Mons. Diamantino Antunes, Bishop of Tete. Visit of Mumemo, during the meeting of the Bishop Conference of Mozambique.

Speaking to ACN, Bishop Diamantino Antunes of Tete, in the west of the central region of Mozambique, deplored the widespread destruction of “dozens of villages” and “of public and social infrastructure, including chapels”.

“Dear brothers and sisters, please, I ask that you continue to open your hearts to the cries of these brothers of ours, praying for them and supporting those who are aiding them, through your generosity”, said Bishop Diamantino Antunes.

According to the International Organisation for Migration, terrorist attacks in the second half of April caused around 50,000 new internally displaced, a number which will have swelled with the attacks of the past weekend.

Mozambique is considered a priority country for ACN, which has been providing aid to the Diocese of Pemba in the form of emergency assistance, pastoral projects for the displaced, and psychosocial support for populations that have suffered directly from terrorism. The Catholic charity has also contributed  supplies for the construction of dozens of houses, community centres and vehicles for the missionaries who are working more directly with the displaced communities.

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