Mozambique: Almost a quarter of a million enrol in military service
After several weeks of preparation and heavy fighting, insurgents Tuesday (11 Aug) re-captured not just the town of Mocimboa da Praia, but also the port. A key link to the Palma gas site, the port was recently rehabilitated and a new coastal shipping route opened.
Coastal shipping from Nacala and Pemba north to Mocimboa and Palma has only just started as the alternative to roads. The only main road from Pemba north to Palma is the N380 through Macomia and Mocimboa, which has been closed by repeated attacks. Only a circuitous and difficult route via Montepuez, Mueda and Nangade is open.
Since the 27 June – 1 July third insurgent occupation, the centre of Mocimboa has been abandoned and empty. Insurgents began to move into outer villages and the suburbs a week ago (5 Aug) and there was some heavy fighting. Both sides in the civil war are using anonymous websites to broadcast their claims. On 6 August https://defesamoz.info/ said defence forces had repelled the attack. Insurgents use Islamic State to release claims, and it said on 7 August that insurgents had overrun two military bases and killed or injured 50 soldiers.
Helicopters from Dyck Advisory Services (DAG) provided some air support to government troops, but it was lmited because they are still based in Pemba which means they have only 15 minutes over Mocimboa before having to return to Pemba to refuel, Zitamar (11 Aug) reports.
Power and communications was cut early, although Vodacom held out until Monday (10 Aug). Although the town was controlled the navy successfully defended that port until Tuesday when they ran out of ammunition and could not keep the insurgents at bay. (Zitamar 11 Aug) Zitamar also notes that DAG tried to deliver ammunition to the navy, but they dropped it so far from the fighting that a number of navy personnel were killed in efforts to retrieve it.
Finally, Defence Minister Jaime Neto held a televised press conference yesterday afternoon (Thursday 13 Aug) to confirm the attack. In answer to a question, Neto said defence forces control Mocimboa and “at this time, the terrorists control nothing”. Although “there still exist places where bandits are still hiding”
The written press statement Neto read out was more cautious. “The Defence and Security Forces are trying to control the situation, but it is still tense and fluid.” Live transmission on TVM below:
The statement had two other interesting points. First, it claimed that the ability of the insurgents to remain in the area despite heavy losses “means they had received additional reinforcement in equipment and men from bases outside the national territory.” Second, it points to the danger that the insurgency could spread beyond Cabo Delgado, and that “the Mozambican state will take all additional measure necessary so that this model of destruction does not spread to other regions.”
The insurgency does not threaten gas exploration in Cabo Delgado, President Filipe Nyusi assured World Bank President David Malpass, in a virtual meeting. (VOA 11 Aug)
On Wednesday VOA (https://bit.ly/VOA-12Aug) said 55 members of the defence force were killed and 90 injured. Pinnacle News said Pemba hospitals were overwhelmed by the inured. On Tuesday (12 Aug) the defence forces (FDS) issued a statement saying they had killed 59 insurgents in the past week, mainly in fighting in outlying villages. Pinnacle News reported yesterday that 1500 newly graduated riot police (UIR, which does most of the fighting) have been sent to Cabo Delgado.
Secret debt boat hit? VOA and Nuno Rogerio both report a navy fast patrol boat off shore at Mocimboa harbour was hit by an RPG (Rocket-Propelled Grenade) fired by an insurgent on the shore, and probably sunk. Unconfirmed reports say it is one of the three HSI32 fast patrol boats bought from Prininvest as part of the $2 bn secret debt. Kroll in its investigation of the $2 bn secret debt said that there was huge over-invoicing on the ships. Their independent expert said that HSI 32 interceptors were worth $8 mn each, but Mozambique was charged $32.7 mn each.
There was substantial preparation for the attack, which may have involved hundreds of insurgents. During the past month there have been a series of raid on villages which seem aimed at building up supplies of food and medicines. There was also fighting around Awasse and Chai as insurgents successfully cut the road to Mocimboa. A 15 vehicle military convoy going from Meuda to Mocimboa was ambushed in Awasse on 10 August. There has also been fighting in Quissanga. (Intelyse, 12, 7 Aug) and Litamanda, Macomia district. (Cabo Ligado, 11 Aug)
By Joseph Hanlon