06 July 2020
Mocimboa Da Praia is situated in Cabo Delgado, approximately 250 km north of Pemba, the provincial capital. It has a population of approximately 20 000 people. It is the closest town to the offshore gas fields (where Total has invested US$23 billion in offshore operations. See https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-05/africa-s-biggest-investment-takes-shape-under-islamist-threat?sref=d39KtWbu ). The town has repeatedly come under attack by Islamic insurgents, who occupied it on 23 March this year and hoisted the ISIS flag, before being repelled by government armed forces.
The town came under attack again during the last weekend of June 2020. Fighting raged for three days, before insurgents were repelled by government troops. By the time the fighting ended, the town had been almost completely destroyed. A week later, Mocimboa da Praia was still without water, electricity or cell phone networks.
The Catholic Church was completely destroyed by fire, caused by insurgents piling up all the wooden benches and pews inside the Church, and setting them on fire.
The photo to the left shows the destroyed interior of the Catholic Church.
Also completely destroyed were the Januario Pedro Secondary School and the District Hospital.
The majority of the town’s population fled into the bush.
The week after the attack on Mocimboa da Praia, insurgents attacked other villages in the area, causing populations to flee. Currently the villages of Miangalewa, Namacande, Muambula and Muatidi have been completely abandoned.
Armed groups and insurgents remain in the area. On 3 July there were reports of renewed attacks on neighbourhoods surrounding Mocimboa da Praia. The town itself, however, appears to be back under government control.
Except for large scale destruction of buildings, charred corpses of persons killed in the fighting were to be seen in the streets of the town. The pictures below, sent from Mocimboa da Praia, give an indication of the destruction and loss of life.
The handful of people remaining in the town sought refuge with Catholic religious who survived the attack. One congregation, the Sisters of St Joseph, are reported to be accommodating 60 severely traumatised people in their small convent.
Throughout the week, displaced persons continued arriving in Pemba, the provincial capital. Many arrived by boat, as it was too dangerous to travel by road. Most are severely traumatised, and in urgent need of food, accommodation, medical supplies and trauma counselling. According to some estimates, more than 200 000 people have been displaced by the ongoing violence.