A UN agency is reporting targeted attacks against civilians in Cabo Delgado’s Palma, marking what is termed “a serious escalation of violence and volatility” in northern Mozambique.
Issuing a humanitarian alert yesterday (Tuesday, 30 March), Jens Laerke of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said “dozens of people” were killed by insurgents in the town at the weekend.
“The violence has not stopped. What happened in Palma is an absolute horror inflicted on civilians by a non-State armed group.
“They have done horrific things, they are still doing so, we reported continued sporadic clashes and are talking about expectations of thousands moving from the Palma district to other areas of the country and toward the Tanzanian border.”
At the same time the UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said, via spokesman Paul Dillon, 3 361 internally displaced people (672 families) were registered on the IOM displacement matrix in northern Mozambique.
“They are arriving on foot, by bus, by plane and by boat from Palma to the Ullongwe, Mueda, Montepuez districts as well as Pemba city,” he said in Geneva.
The world body’s refugee agency UNHCR said families fled “seeking refuge in the bush”.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has to date delivered 250 tons of food assistance to people in Palma. It is temporarily on hold due to the violence WFP’s Tomson Phiri said.
Portuguese news agency Lusa reported on Tuesday that “the first members of a Portuguese military contingent to help train Mozambique forces are to set off in the first half of April”. The information came from an anonymous source at Portugal’s Ministry of Defence.
Former colonial master Portugal is the second country to offer military training assistance to Mozambique. Earlier this month, the US indicated a joint two month combined exchange training programme was underway with US Marine trainers working with the Armed Forces for the Defence of Mozambique (FADM). The programme will, according to the US Embassy in Maputo, up the skill levels of Mozambican soldiers to prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism.
In addition to training, the US government is providing medical and communications equipment for use by FADM.