The African Union has called for urgent and coordinated international action after an attack by fighters that killed dozens and uprooted thousands in the northern Mozambican coastal town of Palma.
Armed fighters attacked Palma on March 24, ransacking buildings and beheading residents and forcing thousands to seek safety in the surrounding forest.
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Dozens have been killed, more than 8,000 displaced and many more are still missing following the coordinated attack, which is seen as the biggest escalation by fighters that have battered Cabo Delgado – a gas-rich province – since 2017.
In a statement, AU Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said on Thursday he “condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks”.
Expressing “utmost concern” at the presence of international hardline groups in southern Africa, he called for an “urgent and coordinated regional and international action”.
Regional bloc the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held emergency talks in Harare, the Zimbabwean capital, to discuss the violence.
Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi promised regional help but gave no details.
He said SADC would “respond in a helpful manner that we assure the integrity and sovereignty of one of our own, never to be assaulted by dissident, rebellious and non-state actor forces that undermine the democratic credentials and peace in the region.”
Nyusi downplays attacks
But Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi on Wednesday downplayed the latest attack as “not the biggest”, despite its unprecedented proximity to Africa’s single biggest investment project.
Palma is approximately 10km (six miles) away from a multibillion-dollar liquified natural gas project (LNG) led by France’s Total and involving other multinational corporations.
Total had already suspended operations and evacuated some staff in late December after fighters launched a series of raids near its compound.
Mozambique has sent troops to Palma to try and recapture the city.