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File photo / Spokesman to General Command of the Mozambican police, Inacio Dina
A group of about 30 armed and hooded men attacked police premises in the coastal district of Mocimboa da Praia, in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, in a pre-dawn raid on Thursday morning.
According to the spokesperson of the General Command of the Mozambican police, Inacio Dina, two policemen and three of the attackers were killed. The police also seized two AK-47 assault rifles and three machetes from the raiders.
Between 01.00 and 04.00, the group attacked the Mocimboa da Praia district police command, the police post in Awasse locality, and the second company of the Natural Resources and Environmental police unit.
The attackers spoke in three languages, said Dina – Portuguese, Swahili, and Kimwani, the local language spoken on the Cabo Delgado coast. Two of the raiders were captured, and Dina hoped they would provide information on the origins and motivations of the group.
“We are calling for calm”, said Dina. “The police are pursuing the criminals in order to bring the situation under control, and will shortly provide new information about what is happening in Mocimboa da Praia”.
The group appears to consist of Islamic fundamentalists, but Dina denied rumours of any connection with the Somali terrorist group, Al-Shabaab.
To appear in Cabo Delgado, an Al-Shabaab group would have had to cross the length of both Kenya and Tanzania, or travel by boat down the East African group. The report that some of the raiders spoke in Kinwani suggests that the group is home-grown, although it might have been inspired by Islamic terrorists in other parts of the world.
Dina admitted that it would be “premature” to claim that the situation was now under control. Reports reaching Maputo from other sources suggest that Mocimboa da Praia town was controlled by the raiders for much of the morning, and that senior figures such as the district administrator and the mayor were evacuated from the town for their own safety. It was also reported that reinforcements from the riot police were on their way to Mocimboa da Praia from the provincial capital, Pemba, a distance of about 300 kilometres.
Asked whether the Mozambican police is prepared to deal with terrorist attacks, Dina claimed that anti-terrorist police units have already been set up. What was key, he believed, was to investigate the nature of the group that attacked Mocimboa da Praia.
There were earlier incidents in Mocimboa da Praia in March and April when individuals, described at the time as Al-Shabaab sympathisers, banned members of the local communities from seeking medical care in Mocimboa health units or from sending their children to school.
Radio Mozambique reported then that three men had been arrested for Al-Shabaab connections. But the police said they had nothing to do with any outside group, but had been detained for inciting disorder after tensions within a Mocimboa mosque.
The Thursday attacks will set alarm bells ringing since Mocimboa da Praia is the nearest commercial port to the Rovuma Basin where discoveries have been made of enormous deposits of natural gas. Plans are under way to set up factories producing liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Palma, the district immediately to the north of Mocimboa da Praia, and some of the companies involved are hoping to use Mocimboa port as a base for their operations.Source: AIM