More than 150 insurgents have reportedly attacked and seized Palma, in the Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region, leading to the assassination of dozens of defenseless people according to the country’s defense and security forces.
An unnamed man described the violence of Monday’s* attack in a recorded message sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “We are running, fleeing, trying to hide here on the shore,” the messenger reported. “They are shooting everywhere.”
“May it be as God wills, here in Palma,” ACN’s correspondent went on to say in his message. “The houses have been abandoned.”
Earlier this week, Daesh took to its Telegram channels media platform to claim that “the caliphate’s soldiers seize[d] the strategic town of Palma,” while the Daesh-affiliated Amaq agency said the attack “resulted in the deaths of 55 Mozambican forces and Christians including contractors from outside the country.”
Brazilian missionary Fr. Edegard Silvain Pemba told ACN the people were becoming used to these attacks. “They were already expecting it,” he said, “because over the past two weeks these evildoers and insurgents had been carrying out a series of attacks in the Nangade region, and almost all the communities close to Palma has already been attacked.”
Fr. Silva’s own Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Pemba’s Muidumbe district had been the scene of a particularly violent attack last year. He reported that many of the families of catechists in Palma had been in touch with him to say they have fled. “When these attacks take place, the people flee into the mountains,” Fr. Silva explained, “so it is difficult to communicate with them on account of the weak signal and the fact that the batteries on their mobile phones have run out.”
Late last week, Islamic militants ambushed a convoy of 17 cars in northern Mozambique. Only seven of the vehicles made it to safety. Seven people were confirmed dead, and many others were injured. As many as 60 people remained missing and feared dead.
UK-based charity Save the Children reported in mid-March that Islamists in the country had beheaded children as young as 11.
“We tried to escape to the woods,” one woman — identified as Elsa — told Save the Children, “but they took my eldest son and beheaded him.”
More than 2,000 people have perished so far in the insurgency in Mozambique, which began in October of 2017. Insurgents have reportedly caused some 670,000 people to flee their homes.
Earlier this month, ACN agreed emergency aid of €160,000 (£136,500) to provide basic foodstuffs including beans, flour, and cooking oil to displaced persons at risk of starvation.
Working with priests and Sisters, the charity has also funded trauma counselling as well as ongoing support for the training of clergy.
*An earlier version of this story reported that the attack had occurred “last week”. The assault began on 24 March, with a major assault on Monday.