24 Jun 2021, 08:39

Mozambique jihadists attack as bloc approves force deployment: sources

MAPUTO, June 24, 2021 (/AFP) - Islamist militants clashed with Mozambican government forces in a new bout of attacks in Palma district near a multi-million-dollar gas plant, military and security sources told AFP Wednesday.

The clashes occurred Wednesday afternoon as Southern African regional leaders met in Maputo and approved the deployment of a regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) standby force to help Mozambique fight terrorism.

"Insurgents tried to attack government forces position in Patacua, near Afungi LNG site and were repelled with air support," a security source told AFP.

An MI8 airforce helicopter trying to deploy troops from the base in Patacua -- around five kilometres from Afungi -- developed technical problems and made an emergency landing, said the military source.

"Palma has been under attack since June 21," they also said from the nearby town, giving no further details.

On March 24, the Islamic State-linked militants launched coordinated attacks on Palma, ransacking buildings and murdering residents as thousands fled.

Following that attack, French oil giant Total pulled out from the region's gas exploration site.

The March assault marked an intensification of the three-year violence that has driven around 800,000 people from their homes, according to the United Nations, and claimed the lives of more than 2,900 people, according to conflict data collector ACLED.

Since then, residents have reported on-and-off low-level skirmishes between the insurgents and government forces.

This week has seen a new round of raids staged.

The national defence forces spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

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