Palma attack may show increasing ‘brazenness’ of Islamic State in Mozambique -U.S. official

Mozambican soldiers in Boane, Mozambique, 08 November 2019. (Photo: EPA-EFE/ANTONIO SILVA)

WASHINGTON, March 29 (Reuters) - An attack on the northern Mozambique town of Palma where dozens were killed and thousands displaced may show the increasing "brazenness" of Islamic State in the country, a U.S. official said on Monday.


The U.S. Department of State’s acting special envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS, John Godfrey, told reporters the attack was in line with what has been seen from Islamic State in Mozambique and said the U.S. government is closely monitoring events.

He cited what he said was the brutality of the attack and the killing of civilians as well as the increased brazenness of the group, which is now seeking to hold some towns.

“The attacks there are horrific, frankly, and show a complete disregard for the life, welfare and security of the local population,” Godfrey said of the attacks in Palma.

“Attacks such as these are clear indicators that ISIS continues to actively seek to spread its malign activity to new fronts,” he added.

Godfrey said one American was on the ground in Palma and that the understanding is the citizen has been successfully evacuated.

Islamist insurgents hit the town, adjacent to gas projects worth $60 billion, with a three-pronged attack on Wednesday. Fighting continued on Monday, according to a security source directly involved in efforts to secure the town.

Islamic State claimed the attack via its Amaq news agency, saying its fighters had taken control of the town after days of clashes with security forces.

They had killed at least 55 people, including a number of soldiers, destroyed and taken control of buildings including factories and banks, and seized vehicles, it said.

Reuters could not independently verify the claims. Most communications to Palma have been down since Wednesday. (Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis Editing by Leslie Adler and Matthew Lewis)


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  • Pedro Monteiro says:

    The problem with an over emphasis on ISIS narrative is that it distracts from the underlying history that probably played an important role in bringing us to the events of the past few days in Palma. Cabo Delgado province has a long history as a Renamo political strong hold which won several provincial election but were effectively prevented from exercising that mandate by the Mozambican government. Pre 1992 Renamo was a brutal armed movement that existed under the umbrella of Apartheid and Cold War politics. It’s methods and impacts were akin to what we see today but on a much larger scale. Put all of this together with the prospects of gas wealth and you have Palma. History tells us that Renamo guerrilla movement had a capacity to organize that belied all efforts to crush it. In the end it was a political settlement that did it. We might consider that sooner than later.

    • Anthony Williams says:

      Fully agree with these comments. For those who are interested, Joseph Hanlon, a veteran political commentator on Mozambique, recently wrote an article titled “A more complex reality in Cabo Delgado” which can be read on various platforms, but was originally published on New Frame. Philip Kleinfeld has also written on the subject in The New Humanitarian.

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