Southern African leaders to meet over Mozambique unrest

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PRETORIA 

Leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said Tuesday they will meet Thursday to deliberate on measures against militant attacks in Mozambique.

An armed militant group believed to be affiliated with the Daesh/ISIS terrorist group attacked the coastal town of Palma in Cabo Delgado province near the border with Tanzania late March, killing dozens and injuring scores of others.

“SADC is deeply concerned about the continued terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado, especially for the lives and welfare of the residents who continue to suffer from the atrocious, brutal and indiscriminate assaults,” the regional block of 16 countries said in a statement.

Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi, also the current chairperson of the SADC Troika Organ on Politics, Defense and Security, said: “The attacks in Mozambique were an affront to peace and security, not only in Mozambique, but also in the region and the international community as a whole.”

The SADC extraordinary Double Troika Summit will be held in Mozambique’s capital Maputo on Thursday to devise measures to address terrorism which continues to destabilize northern parts of that country.

The armed group, locally known as al-Shabaab but with no established links to the armed militant group in Somalia, has wreaked havoc in northern Mozambique since late 2017, killing hundreds, displacing communities, and capturing towns.

The northern province of Mozambique is rich in natural gas, and companies such as France’s Total SE are to extract liquefied natural gas (LNG) from offshore sites in the Indian Ocean, but experts say such attacks could derail the project.

Investments by Total and others are estimated at $23 billion, one of the largest investments on the continent.

The Mozambican Oil and Gas Chamber said in a recent statement that these attacks are directed at disrupting investment in oil and gas projects in Mozambique and terrorizing the local population.

The group called on the international community to support the government of Mozambique in its efforts to deal with terrorism in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.

“Terrorism is a global problem and Mozambique must therefore not be left to deal with it alone,” the chamber said as it strongly condemned the March 25 terrorist attacks in the town of Palma.

– Mozambican army regains control of Palma

Meanwhile, the Mozambican army said it has regained total control of the Palma town which had been overrun by militants for almost a week.

Local media reported that several militants had been killed and residents who fled the town were now gradually returning home.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at least 11,000 people are said to have fled Palma following recent attacks.

More than 670,000 people are said to be displaced inside Mozambique due to the conflict in Cabo Delgado – almost seven times the number reported a year ago.

At least 2,614 people have died in the conflict, including 1,312 civilians.

Humanitarian agencies say the situation has seriously deteriorated over the past 12 months, with the escalation of attacks on villages.

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