Islamist militants claimed on Tuesday, August 11, to have seized control of the Cabo Delgado port town of Mocimboa da Praia following several days of heavy fighting in the area. Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama claimed that its fighters had seized the town's heavily defended port on Tuesday evening after security forces defending the facility expended their ammunition. The Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP) -affiliated group also claimed to have destroyed a naval patrol boat in the port with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) during the assault, although a number of military personnel are reported to have been evacuated via the port as their positions were overrun.
The capture of Mocimboa da Praia is yet to be independently confirmed, but multiple media sources reported the claims on Wednesday, August 12, after ISCAP sources began posting images on social media to support their claims of responsibility.
Heavy fighting between security forces and the militant group has been reported in the Mocimboa da Praia area since Thursday, August 6, with ISCAP claiming to have seized two military bases on the outskirts of the town in recent days. Security forces are reported to have focused on defending Mocimboa da Praia's strategic port, but utilities, including communications networks, were cut as militants moved into the town. Security forces are also reported to have been cut off from resupply after a military relief convoy was ambushed in the Awasse area on Sunday, August 9.
Further security operations are likely in the Mocimboa da Praia district in the medium term as the Mozambican military attempts to regain control of the town. It is currently unclear whether the militants intend to occupy Mocimboa da Praia, as previous incursions have seen fighters withdrawing before a military counterattack.
Cabo Delgado province has seen a significant increase in Islamist militant activity in 2020. At least 900 civilians have been killed, and at least 150,000 more have fled Cabo Delgado since the Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama insurgency began in 2017.
Mocimboa da Praia has been targeted several times during the insurgency, including the group's initial attack in October 2017 and a major assault in March 2020. Although the ability of the militants to occupy and control major towns such as Mocimboa da Praia remains limited, recent major attacks have raised concerns over the group's increasing capabilities.
Those in Cabo Delgado province are advised to monitor developments, remain vigilant for militant activity, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments. Some Western governments advise against all travel to parts of Cabo Delgado province. Travelers in or intending to travel to Cabo Delgado should seek professional security support due to the volatile security environment and potential for further attacks.
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