ACLED reports that there was increased violence around Palma town where some of the Rwandan intervention forces have deployed. On 12 July, insurgents attacked Ncumbi, sits 13 kilometers southwest of Palma town on the road toward Mocimboa da Praia. No casualty estimates from the attack are available, in part due to the fact that cellular phone coverage was down in the area on that day.

The next day, government troops began informing civilians living in villages on the outskirts of Palma town — namely, Ncumbi, Makongo, Olumbe, and Monjane — that they are barred from traveling by boat. Sea travel south toward Pemba had been one of the most popular paths of escape from the area, alongside overland treks west to Nangade. Instead, government forces told residents of those communities they had until 19 July to relocate to Quitunda, the main camp for displaced civilians near Palma. There, government forces told civilians, they could safely await the results of a planned government offensive in the area.

As Mozambican military and civilian leaders tried to prepare Palma district civilians for an impending offensive, Rwandan troops continued to arrive in the district. It is unclear what role they will play in the coming fighting. Multiple reports indicated tension between Rwandan troops and Mozambican troops on the ground, with some reports suggesting that Mozambican forces are refusing to cede their positions to the Rwandans – an early indicator of how difficult it will be to coordinate between two sets of security forces that have not worked together in the past.

Elsewhere in Cabo Delgado, attacks from both sides continued. In Nangade district, displaced people arriving after walking west from Palma reported that a Mozambican military unit executed 15 suspected insurgents that had been captured attempting to cross the Rovuma River into Tanzania on 13 July. At least one of the suspected insurgents was Tanzanian. The displaced civilians personally witnessed Mozambican troops execute two of the prisoners before fleeing, but later saw that none of the 15 had been transported with the unit that did the killing, leading them to believe that all 15 had been executed.

On 15 July, a group of insurgents attacked the village 5º Congresso, roughly 20 kilometers north of Macomia town. Six civilians were killed in the attack.

On 17 July, insurgents attacked Mitope, a village in northwest Mocimboa da Praia district along the border with Nangade. They captured and beheaded one civilian during the attack. Government forces responded from the air, with a Mi-24 helicopter firing rockets at the insurgent attackers. It is unclear if the rocket strike resulted in any casualties.

A report of an earlier incident also came in last week concerning a boat carrying IDPs that sank off the coast of Ilha Vamize, Palma district on 10 July. Four sailboats left Maganja that day, with families fleeing Palma district for the safety of Pemba. The boats were forced to turn back due to foul weather, but one of the boats capsized while turning about and sank. Nine women drowned. Their bodies were later found on Ilha Vamize, where they were buried.

On13 July, IS issued another claim, saying that their fighters had clashed with the Mozambican army the previous day in Muidumbe (presumably Namacande, the district capital), killing one soldier and seizing three motorcycles and a firearm.

On 14 July, an Amaq Agency article claimed that on 23 June, IS fighters attacked a Mozambican army position at Patacua, just south of Quitunda in Palma district, and fought a number of other skirmishes around the Palma area. In all, the article asserted IS fighters killed 15 soldiers, destroyed a military vehicle, captured two other military vehicles, and captured six firearms; they also set homes on fire in three unnamed villages around Palma.

On 15 July, IS released a double claim. The first part of the claim described an attack on “Micombi” — probably Ncumbi — on 14 July in which fighters killed four civilians. Then, the claim continued, insurgents engaged in a firefight with the Mozambican military on the same day along the road between Palma and Mocimboa da Praia, destroying one motorbike and capturing another.

A large contingent of civilians displaced from the district arrived last week in areas along the edge of the conflict zone. In Ntamba, Nangade district, some 1,150 people arrived on 12 July, while another 78 made it to Nangade town the same day. As many as 200 families who make it to Nangade are continuing south to Mueda each day. A source who spoke to displaced people as they arrived in Mueda reported that many left the areas around Palma as a result of direct threats from insurgents, who told them to leave or be killed.

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released a joint statement expressing their “deep concern” about the situation of Mozambican refugees attempting to enter Tanzania. The release puts the number of Mozambicans deported from Tanzania between January and June 2021 at over 9,700 and says that the Tanzanian government did not conduct any assessment of their protection needs. Tanzanian officials have consistently denied UNHCR personnel access to the border area on the Tanzanian side, making it difficult to deliver aid to refugees before they are deported. The statement ends with a call from both organizations to the Tanzanian government to adhere to the principle of non-refoulement and open the border area to humanitarian organizations. UNHCR has spoken out about the plight of Mozambican refugees for some time now, but the addition of the African Commission’s voice makes this rebuke a particularly sharp one.

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