JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The “war” in northern Mozambique is the fault of people who want to divide the country for its wealth, President Filipe Nyusi said Friday during a visit to the region, days after Islamic extremists seized a key port there.
The president’s comments, posted on social media, came after the latest brazen attack by the fighters who have terrorized gas-rich Cabo Delgado province since late 2017.
The top U.S. diplomat to Africa earlier this year said the extremists, who pledge allegiance to the Islamic State group, risk giving Mozambique “the type of threat that Boko Haram has become in Nigeria.”
The fighters have threatened both Mozambique’s government and the foreign companies such as ExxonMobil and Total that are investing billions of dollars in projects to produce liquefied natural gas from gas fields off the Indian Ocean coast.
The extremist attacks have surged this year, and more than 1,500 people have been killed since the insurgency first erupted, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.
The fighters earlier this week seized the port of Mocímboa da Praia, with a population of more than 100,000, for the second time this year.
“Reliable casualty reports have not yet come through, but they are expected to be significant,” ACLED said in a statement on the running battles around the town that began Aug. 5.
In recent months the fighters have taken control of villages for days or weeks at a time.
Scores of thousands of people have fled their homes. The president spoke Friday after visiting a camp for displaced people in Metuge district.
“We must remain vigilant and hope that better days will come,” Nyusi said.