Jihadists fly their flag in Mozambique—a ‘disgrace,’ bishop says

ISLAMIST TERRORISTS on March 13 briefly occupied the port city of Mocímboa da Praia, a town of around 20,000 inhabitants in the province of Cabo Delgado, in the north of Mozambique.

According to local sources, the attackers torched public buildings, released prisoners from the local prison and even patrolled the streets freely. As a sign of this demonstration of strength, the insurgents even raised a black flag, identifying them as a jihadist group.

Bishop Lisboa (r)

Speaking by telephone with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa of Pemba, confirmed the news. “They came and went as they pleased,” he said. “There was no effective response from the security forces. Many of the soldiers fled, because the attackers were more numerous, leaving them free to help themselves to food, supplies, vehicles and military equipment. Some of the attackers were dressed in military uniform. The reinforcements that were called for arrived only after the attackers had dispersed,” the bishop reported.

“It is a tragedy. What is happening in Mozambique is a disgrace. It is a real shame that our people should be humiliated in this way,” the bishop charged.

This attack might well mark a turning point in the growing instability that has plagued northern Mozambique since October 2017. Until now the attacks have been mainly targeting sparsely populated rural areas. On this occasion the insurgents staged a deliberate show of force in a district capital.

As a result, there is growing fear among the population. “They left a message that they would be returning,” Bishop Lisboa said. He added: “The people are afraid. If they can attack Mocímboa, which is the largest town in the region, then the people of Palma, Mueda, and Macomia have reason to feel themselves in danger. The people are terrified; they were already frightened before, but now it’s worse.” According to local media there were scenes of “chaos and panic” during the time that Mocímboa was under the control of the attackers.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for other recent attacks in the province of Cabo Delgado. At the beginning of March, ISIS claimed responsibility for the death of soldiers of the Mozambican army, following clashes with government forces. And in February at least four soldiers were killed in the small town of Chiculua, in the district of Palma, where it is believed that ISIS was responsible for burning a number of houses and looting shops and businesses.

The country’s Catholic Church is following the unfolding situation with grave concern. “The attacks this week have intensified the feeling of insecurity. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church will continue to stay close to the people, despite the obvious danger of further armed attacks,” Bishop Lisboa stressed.

—Paulo Aido