Insurgents Occupy Mozambique Town in Brazen Attack, Killing Leader

Insurgents launched a coordinated attack on Macomia town in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province, occupying it for over 24 hours. The attack, which targeted Mozambican military and police bases, resulted in the death of an insurgent leader and prompted a response from South African forces.

Bijay Laxmi
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Insurgents Occupy Mozambique Town in Brazen Attack, Killing Leader

Insurgents Occupy Mozambique Town in Brazen Attack, Killing Leader

On May 10, 2024, a major insurgent attack on Macomia town in Mozambique's gas-rich Cabo Delgado province resulted in the occupation of the town for over 24 hours. An estimated 100 insurgents were involved in the well-coordinated assault, which was launched from four different directions targeting Mozambican military and police bases. The attack caused hundreds of local residents to flee and resulted in the death of insurgent leader Issa.

Why this matters: The attack on Macomia town has significant implications for the stability of Mozambique and the region, as it threatens the country's economic future and raises concerns about the ability of the government to maintain security. The withdrawal of regional forces by July 15 could embolden the insurgency, leading to further violence and instability in the region.

The brazen attack also targeted a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) base in Macomia, prompting an urgent dispatch of reinforcements from Pemba, 130 km away. A convoy of four South African armoured vehicles was ambushed, with improvised explosive devices detonated, knocking out two Casspir armoured personnel carriers. However, none of the SANDF soldiers were injured. South African soldiers fought off waves of insurgents for three and a half hours, running low on ammunition, before being relieved by a South African Air Force Oryx helicopter carrying four Special Forces soldiers and extra ammunition.

Macomia, situated 100 miles south of the planned TotalEnergies gas-export facility, is a strategic location along the main highway connecting the provincial capital of Pemba with the north. The attack signals an escalation in unrest since December's assaults, amidst government efforts to revive the $20 billion liquefied natural gas project. Piers Pigou, head of the Southern Africa Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, described the attack as "a huge propaganda victory for Islamic State-Mozambique fighters and a major embarrassment for Maputo and the SADC."

The attack comes as the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) prepares for a July withdrawal, after initially deploying in December 2021 to defeat insurgents in Cabo Delgado province. SAMIM contributors Botswana and Lesotho have already departed, while Rwandan forces will stay on under a separate bilateral agreement with Mozambique. Darren Olivier, African Defence Review Director, called the attack "a disaster" and criticized the withdrawal of SAMIM as "premature" and "emboldening the insurgency."

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi acknowledged the "terrorist attack" on Macomia but did not mention SAMIM troops engaging with the insurgents. The Mozambican government said its army successfully repelled the attack after 45 minutes of fighting. Portuguese news agency Lusa reported that more than 100 fighters were involved in the attack. Mozambican government forces captured one of the attackers who later died in custody, and injured a leader, who escaped.

The Macomia attack marks a significant escalation by Islamic State-linked insurgents in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province. With regional forces set to withdraw by July 15, the Mozambican government faces the challenge of maintaining stability and securing the multi-billion dollar gas projects crucial to the country's economic future. The brazen assault underscores the persistent threat posed by the insurgency and raises doubts about the readiness of Mozambican forces to confront the militants without external support.

Key Takeaways

  • Insurgent attack on Macomia town in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province.
  • 100 insurgents involved, targeting military and police bases.
  • Attack threatens Mozambique's economic future and regional stability.
  • Regional forces to withdraw by July 15, potentially emboldening insurgency.
  • Mozambican government faces challenge of maintaining stability and securing gas projects.