Johannesburg (AP) — A fierce battle over control of Parma, the strategic northern town of Mozambique, left behind head-held bodies scattered on the streets on Monday, with heavily armed rebels in military and police in several places. , Fighted a private military organization.
It was estimated that thousands were missing from the town where about 70,000 lived before the attack began last Wednesday.
According to the SITE militant surveillance group, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack on Monday, saying it was carried out by the Islamic State of Central Africa.
Rebels alleged that armed groups now control Parma’s banks, government agencies, factories and barracks, killing more than 55 people, including Mozambique troops, Christians and foreigners. It did not provide further details about the dead.
Earlier this month, the United States declared Mozambique rebels a terrorist organization and announced that Mozambique troops had sent military experts to assist in training to fight them.
Parma is the center of billions of dollars invested by Total, a French-based oil and gas company, to extract liquefied natural gas from offshore sites in the Indian Ocean. The gas deposit is estimated to be the largest in the world, with investment by Total and others reported to be $ 20 billion, making it one of the largest in Africa.
The battle for Parma forced Total to evacuate from a large fortified location a few miles (kilometers) away from the city.
The fighting spread throughout the city on Monday, according to Lionel Dyck, director of the Dyck Advisory Group, a private military company contracted by Mozambique police to help fight rebels.
“There are fights in the streets and in the pockets of the town,” Dyke told The Associated Press. The Dyke Group has several helicopter gunships in Parma, which have been used to rescue trapped civilians and fight rebels.
“My guys were in the air, joining several small groups and joining one very large group,” Dyck said. “They landed in a battle to regain a few injured police officers …. Many trapped people, finally rescued 220.”
He said the rescued people were taken to a total fortified location on the Ahungi Peninsula in southern Africa, where many charter flights flew south to Pemba, the capital of Cabodelgado.
The rebels are armed with AK-47 automatic rifles, RPD and PKM machine guns, and heavy mortars, Dyke said.
“This attack is not a surprise. I was hoping that Parma would be hit the moment the rain stopped and the fighting season began,” he said.
“They are prepared for this. They have enough time to line up the ducks. They have a notch in their abilities. They are more aggressive. They have mortars. I use it. “He said many wore black uniforms.
“There were many headlines. On the first day, our guys saw a truck driver carrying food to Parma. Their bodies were by the truck. Their heads were I was away. “
Mr Dyke said it would not be easy for the Mozambique government to regain control of Parma.
“They have to wipe out the town, go from house to house, and get enough troops to clean each and every one. That’s the most difficult stage of war in the book,” Dyke said. Told. “Unless you have a capable force with good command and control to recapture the town, it would be very difficult. It can be done, but it’s not easy.”
Without Parma’s control, the total business would be at risk, analysts said.
The battle for Parma is similar to how the rebels occupied the port of Mosinboada Praia in August. The rebels infiltrated the town to live among the inhabitants and then launched attacks from three directions. The fighting lasted for more than a week before the rebels ruled the town center and its harbor. The town, about 50 miles south of Parma, is still dominated by rebels.
UN spokesman Stephen Dujaric has reportedly accused the violence in Parma, killing dozens of people “including those trying to escape from the evacuated hotels.”
He mentioned people trapped in the Amarula Hotel trying to escape to a convoy of 17 cars on Friday. Only seven cars arrived at the beach, killing seven. Some of the other vehicles escaped into the dense tropical jungle and were later rescued.
“We continue to work closely with the authorities in the field to provide assistance to those affected by the violence,” said Dujaric.
The battle for Parma is expected to dramatically exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Cabodelgado, northern Mozambique, where rebels launched violent attacks in 2017. According to experts, they are now likely to reach thousands.
“The attack on Parma is a game changer in that rebels have changed the story,” said one expert who returned from Parma earlier this month.
“This is not a miscellaneous group of disorganized youth. Due to the sensitivity of Parma’s visit, an expert said on condition of anonymity,” It occupies and retains a town and is now very strategic. It is a trained and determined unit that continues to fight for a central location. ” It casts doubt on the overall LNG (liquefied natural gas) investment, which has long been thought to drive Mozambique’s major economic growth. “
Known locally as al-Shabaab, although the relationship with the Somali jihadist rebels of the same name is unknown, more than 2,600 rebels have violence in Mozambique, a country of 30 million people. People fleeing their homes were due to the dead and caused an estimated 670,000 people.
“Doctors Without Borders’ chief analyst, Jonathan Wittal, is working to help displaced persons around the state capital, Pemba, 100 miles south of Parma.
“Overall, the situation was already very worrisome for those displaced by violence and those in areas where humanitarian aid was hard to reach,” Wittal said. “This attack on Parma will bring more evacuation and increase the need to address it as an urgent issue.”
“Northern Mozambique has long ignored the humanitarian crisis,” Wittal said, adding that his organization is looking for ways to expand its emergency response.
Contributed by AP journalist Edith M. Lederer of the United Nations and Tom Bowker in Uzes, France.