Thousands flee Cabo Delgado after attacks

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Militants forced 570 000 people to flee their homes in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province, President Filipe Nyusi said, vowing to defeat insurgents who stepped up attacks since pledging loyalty to Islamic State last year.

Fighters have been taking on the army and seizing entire towns in recent months in the province, home to gas developments worth some $60 billion.

Earlier this week, the UN refugee agency said at least 424 000 people fled to neighbouring Niassa, Nampula and Pempa provinces and warned the crisis could spread beyond Mozambique’s borders.

“Those who are terrorists must be aware it will be the people who will win this war,” Nyusi said in a televised address to the nation.

“We will keep mobilising humanitarian aid to the victims of terrorists. These acts have forced 570 000 to flee who are now crying to get back to their destroyed homes.”

Nyusi said Mozambique received offers “from all corners of the world” to help fight terrorism. Government “will keep training and equip our military to fight”, he added.

The insurgent group, Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, staged its first attack in 2017. Known at first mainly for crude beheadings, the fighters declared allegiance to Islamic State in June 2019 and since increased attacks in scale and frequency.

Nathan Sales, co-ordinator for counterterrorism at the US State Department, said insurgents in northern Mozambique belonged to a “committed” affiliate of Islamic State and should be seen as a global terrorism threat.

Violence spilled across the border into Tanzania in October, prompting joint military operations.