The northern town and gas hub of Palma in Mozambique that Islamic State-linked insurgents attacked late last month is now secure after the military killed a significant number of militants and cleared one final area, an army spokesman and a provincial official said.
Palma was taken in a coordinated attack on March 24, in a major escalation of an insurgency that has been raging in Cabo Delgado province for more than three years.
“We have completed the clearing (of the town). It was the only sensitive area that we needed to clear. … It is completely safe,” army spokesman Chongo Vidigal said in comments broadcast by state TV channel TVM late on Sunday.
“I think that it is a significant number of terrorists who were shot down,” he said, adding the authorities would provide a precise number later.
Thousands have fled the town of some 75,000 people where dozens were killed, according to an early government toll, and French energy giant Total has abandoned a site where a multi-billion-dollar gas project is underway.
Footage taken by TVM in Palma showed a soldier covering a body lying in the street.
Images showed the blackened remains of several buildings, including banks, the town’s hospital and the state prosecutor’s office.
Cabo Delgado’s governor, Valygi Tualibo, painted a rosier picture, claiming Palma was back in government hands.
Visiting the town as part of Sunday’s media visit, Tualibo told reporters he was “greatly satisfied” with what he saw.
“The situation is bleak, but we are excited,” the governor said on TVM.
“Palma is under 100 percent control by Mozambican authorities.”
Islamic State-linked insurgents have been increasingly active in Cabo Delgado since 2017, although it is unclear whether they have a unified aim.
Thousands of Mozambican troops had already been deployed to Cabo Delgado before the attack on Palma.
(With input from agencies)