Thursday, April 22, 2021

Mozambique Insurgency: Close-up Map of Control in April 2021

There are newer editions of this map available. To see them, view all Mozambique articles on PolGeoNow.

It's finally here: the close-up, super-detailed version of our Mozambique insurgency control map! This edition depicts the situation near the beginning of this month, when the government was fighting for control of Palma. A new close-up version of our August 2020 map is also now available, and future updates are expected more frequently from now on. To see the full list of reports, you can always view all Mozambique articles on PolGeoNow.

Mozambique: Cabo Delgado conflict map - April 2021: Detailed, close-up control map showing areas occupied by so-called ISIS-linked rebels in northern Mozambique (also known as Ahlu Sunnah Wa Jama, ASWJ, Ansar al-Sunnah, or Al Shabaab), plus towns and villages raided by the insurgents over the past eight months. Shows roads, rivers, and terrain, and includes key locations of the insurgency such as Palma, Mocímboa da Praia, Awasse, Macomia, the Total LNG site and natural gas fields, Muidumbe, Pangane, Muatide, Vamizi Island, and many more towns and villages. Key locations across the border in Tanzania also shown. Updated to April 2, 2021. Colorblind accessible.
Map by Evan Centanni and Djordje Djukic. Some elements © OpenStreetMap contributors. Terrain data sourced from ViewFinderPanoramas. Contact us for permission to use this map.

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Timeline by Djordje Djukic and Evan Centanni

New: Close-up Cabo Delgado Insurgency Map

In the eight months since our first Mozambique conflict timeline was published, insurgents in Cabo Delgado province have gradually increased their control, continuing to raid villages and towns in multiple districts, culminating most recently in their temporary takeover of most of Palma, a major town close to under-construction natural gas facilities operated by French company Total. The rebel group - locally known as "Al Shabaab" but thought to formally label itself Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamâ (ASWJ) - is increasingly believed to be cooperating, if only loosely, with the so-called "Islamic State" (IS; ISIS/ISIL).

Now, for the first time, PolGeoNow presents our close-up map of the Cabo Delgado conflict, rigorously researched and edited to provide the most detailed, informative, and reliable map of insurgent control and attacks available anywhere.

Where is ISIS in Mozambique? Full-country map of insurgent control in northern Mozambique, with territorial control, roads, rivers, and terrain. Includes key locations of the insurgency such as Mocímboa da Praia, Palma, Macomia, Mucojo, Quissanga, Meluco, Muidumbe, Mueda, Quiterajo, and Nangade, as well as other important cities such as Pemba, Nampula, and Maputo. Neighboring countries shown, including Comoros, Madagascar, and French territories of Juan de Nova Island, Bassas da India, and Europa Island. Updated to April 2, 2021. Colorblind accessible.
Map of the Cabo Delgado insurgency's location within Mozambique (click to enlarge), with territorial control updated to the same date as the April 2021 close-up map. Some elements © OpenStreetMap contributors. Terrain data sourced from ViewFinderPanoramas. Contact us for permission to use this map.

We have also mapped the events of October 2017 to August 2020 in the same carefully-researched, close-up detail - along with a revised and much-expanded version of our previous conflict timeline - in a separate article exclusive to our paid subscribers.

The new map is largely based on materials from the Cabo Ligado conflict observatory, which publishes comprehensive weekly summaries of available news reports and other data collated by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (ACLED). 

However, PolGeoNow applies an extra layer of quality control to the location data, conducting our own research on the coordinates of reported locations and avoiding the use of low-precision data points. As a result, in comparison to the maps illustrating Cabo Ligado and ACLED reports, it could be said that our map is less comprehensive but more accurate.

Mozambique Conflict Timeline

The following is a timeline of territorial control changes, major attacks, and other key political and military events since our previous Cabo Delgado control map depicting the situation in August 2020. Sources are provided as in-line links within the text. 

Terminology note: Although the anti-government fighters in Cabo Delgado generally appear to be working together as a unified group, most attacks are not publicly claimed by any organization, and it is difficult to say whose orders were behind any given action. Furthermore, there is a lack of consensus among analysts on what the insurgent group is called. In order to remain agnostic on these unresolved issues, our timeline refers to all such attackers simply as "insurgents", a generic term for people fighting to overthrow or subvert the government of the country they live in.

Mozambique: Cabo Delgado insurgency map - October 2017 to August 2020: Detailed, close-up control map showing areas occupied by so-called ISIS-linked rebels in northern Mozambique (also known as Ahlu Sunnah Wa Jama, ASWJ, or Ansar al-Sunnah), plus towns and villages raided by the insurgents over the past three years. Shows roads, rivers, and terrain, and includes key locations of the insurgency such as Mocímboa da Praia, Awasse, Macomia, the Total LNG site and natural gas fields, Miangalewa, Litingina, Ntessa, Cagembe, Marere, Makulo, and many, many more. Colorblind accessible.
Map of insurgent control of Cabo Delgado in August 2020 and raids since 2017 (subscriber exclusive; click for more info).
August 18-23, 2020
The Cabo Ligado conflict-tracking project registered no insurgent attacks for a whole week in the aftermath of their takeover of Mocímboa da Praia town. The project also reported that insurgent activity had disappeared from much of the inland part of Quissanga district since the government capture of an insurgent base in Cagembe in May, with local populations feeling safe enough to return to towns and villages such as Bilibiza, Tapara, Ntessa, and Cagembe itself. On the coast, however, there were signs that the insurgents were still present around Quissanga town, and villagers had still not returned to Mahate either.

Meanwhile, French energy company Total - in charge of operating the multinational natural gas extraction project in Cabo Delgado, based at the under-construction liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on Cabo Afungi near Palma - reached a deal with the Mozambican government establishing the details of security arrangements for the LNG site and other important locations. Under the arrangement, a special Mozambican government task force would be in charge of defending the project, while Total would provide logistical support (reportedly with an option to bring in private security forces if the government under-performed).

August 26-29, 2020
The Mozambican military attacked insurgents in the area of Mbau, killing nine fighters and capturing two, while insurgents clashed with a military convoy in the Awasse area.

September 3, 2020
The Mozambican government was reported to be preparing for an operation to recapture the port town of Mocímboa da Praia, which had been captured by insurgents on August 11.

September 6, 2020
Insurgents released two Catholic nuns, both Brazilians, who had been held captive for nearly a month after their convent was overrun during the takeover of Mocímboa da Praia.

September 5-13, 2020
The insurgents strengthened their hold on Mocímboa da Praia and conducted 17 attacks in three districts of Cabo Delgado province, including several around Mucojo, where they burned 72 houses in one village, and one in the village of Maputo on the road from Mocímboa da Praia to Palma (not to be confused with Mozambique's national capital city, also called Maputo). Starting on September 11, they also began attacking villages and vehicles around Pundanhar, effectively shutting down the Nangade-Palma road to civilian traffic.

A government offensive towards Mocímboa da Praia at first was stopped by an insurgent ambush in Awasse, but later apparently managed to reoccupy that town, reaching Manilha village on September 12 before turning back again after a battle with insurgents.

Meanwhile, Cabo Ligado reported that Quiterajo on the coast was "a ghost town that locals consider to be under insurgent control", but that limited signs of normalcy were returning to Macomia town, which received visits from government officials for the celebration of a national holiday. To the north, Tanzania was reportedly hosting 800 Mozambican refugees at an unofficial camp in Msimbati, while Total said it was still planning to begin LNG production at its site on Cabo Afungi in 2024.

September 9, 2020
Insurgents reportedly captured the islands of Vamizi and "Mecungo" (presumably Metundo) in the Indian Ocean, though subsequent coverage suggested they may not have held onto control of them. They had also raided Vamizi four days earlier.

Meanwhile, a report by Amnesty International accused government forces in Mozambique of torturing suspected insurgents, as well as committing "possible extrajudicial executions" and "discarding a large number of corpses into apparent mass graves".

September 12, 2020
Insurgents raided Maganja village, near the international LNG plant.

September 14, 2020
Insurgents raided Quissengue, south of Palma, burning 18 homes. The same day, they conducted an assault near Diaca, initially pushing back the military before eventually being repelled by government troops. Five insurgents were killed in the fighting.

September 15, 2020
The number of islands near Mocímboa da Praia that the insurgents had taken control of reportedly reached five, with a total of four villages near Palma having been attacked in recent days. A number of island luxury hotels had been burned down, including one on Vamizi known to have been visited by various international celebrities. However, around this time Vamizi was resecured by the government, which established a troop garrison there.

September 20, 2020
Insurgents dressed as soldiers raided Litamanda, in the north of Macomia district. Wearing government uniforms to sow confusion is a common tactic for the insurgents.

September 22-24, 2020
Insurgents returned to the inland areas of Quissanga district, first attacking Cagembe with a small force, then storming Bilibiza in larger numbers and burning down most of the town's houses, all without any direct government military response.

September 28, 2020
Insurgents destroyed the village of Nyica (Nhica) in Palma district and killed a border guard in an attack on a government post there.

September 29, 2020
Mozambique requested military assistance from the European Union - apparently seeking tactical training, logistics support, and other indirect assistance rather than direct intervention

September 30, 2020
Insurgents took over Mucojo town and nearby Pangane village on the coast of Macomia district. Government troops responded, leading to battles in both locations, and an insurgent victory in Pangane. In the occupations, which appear to have both been temporary, at least 12 government security forces members and five civilians were killed. Much of Pangane's population fled to Matemo Island, which had not yet been attacked by the insurgents. Nearby Ibo island, which has more infrastructure and could better host the displaced people, was closed to outsiders as a security measure.

October 3, 2020
An insurgent attack on Magaia village north of Muidumbe was repelled by a local militia.

October 9-11, 2020
Insurgents set up several roadblocks between Mucojo and Macomia. Two days later, they passed through Naunde, Galudo, and one other village before arriving in Mucojo and killing two civilians. A village just south of Pangane was also attacked, while Makalowe Island just off of Pangane had been raided two days earlier.

Somalia control map from October 2020. Shows territorial control by Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), Al Shabaab, so-called Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), separatist Somaliland, autonomous state Puntland, and boundaries of additional federal member states Galmudug, Jubaland, South West, and Hirshabelle. Colorblind accessible.
The original Al Shabaab, not believed to be closely connected to Mozambique's insurgents, controls much of Somalia, three countries to the north along the East African coast.
October 14, 2020
In their first major cross-border raid, over 300 insurgents reportedly attacked Kitaya village in Tanzania, killing at least 20 people and capturing a Tanzanian military vehicle. The attack was afterwards claimed by the so-called "Islamic State" (IS). In a video of the attack, insurgents threatened to overthrow Tanzania's president, and called themselves "Al Shabaab from Mozambique".

The same day, insurgents raided Nacate, south of Macomia, burning homes and killing one civilian. 

October 16, 2020
Insurgents raided Olumbe town in Palma district after driving out a unit of the Mozambican marines, but by some accounts were later pushed back by Dyck PMC helicopter strikes.
October 16-18, 2020
The Mozambican government purportedly claimed that its forces pushed the insurgents out of the Awasse area of Mocímboa da Praia district and killed 270 fighters with the help of a Mueda-based militia made up of independence war veterans. However, as of two months later Awasse town would still reportedly be under insurgent control, and Cabo Ligado suspected the report to be either greatly exaggerated or entirely fabricated.
October 19-20, 2020
Insurgents attacked several villages south of Nacate, near the boundary between Macomia and Meluco districts, including Nangaroro.

October 20-21, 2020
Insurgents arrived on Matemo Island and began attacking people there. They were trapped on the island overnight after Dyck PMC helicopter strikes destroyed their boats, then were killed - alongside an unknown number of civilian hostages - by more helicopter strike while fleeing the island on commandeered boats the next day.

October 21, 2020
A second cross-border insurgent attack was reportedly turned back by Tanzanian forces at a border post 30km east of Kitaya.

October 28, 2020
Insurgents raided three more villages in Tanzania, including Mihambwe and Michenjele, in attacks claimed by IS. 

In a move seen by analysts as political posturing, the government of Zimbabwe called for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) alliance to plan a multilateral intervention against the insurgents in Mozambique.

October 29, 2020
The military reportedly was advancing towards a major insurgent base somewhere in the forest of Mocímboa da Praia district, while the Interior Minister claimed to have killed 22 insurgents over the previous three days.

October 31, 2020
Insurgents attacked and captured Muidumbe town (also known as Namacande) in an attack claimed by the so-called "Islamic State" (IS; formerly ISIS/ISIL), also beheading more than 50 people in nearby Muatide village. Overall, seven towns and villages in the district were attacked, also including Magaia and Miteda. Meanwhile, insurgents had also recently attacked Pangane and Makalowe, on the coast of Macomia district.

October 31-November 3, 2020
Insurgent attacks took place at Pundanhar, in Palma district. Security forces, backed up by South African private military contractors (PMCs) from the Dyck Advisory Group, were struggling to keep the Palma-Mueda road, which runs through Pundanhar, secured for traffic. The road was closed several times due to constant insurgent attacks. The insurgents even occupied Pundanhar for three days before security forces managed to recapture it on November 3, amid an assault that reportedly left 33 insurgents dead. A group of resupply vehicles was only able to reach Palma with air cover from Dyck PMC helicopters.

Meanwhile, the mayor of the provincial capital of Pemba reported that the city had grown by 50% in population due to the conflict, reluctantly playing host to nearly 100,000 newly-arrived displaced people.

October 31-November 4, 2020
Insurgents occupied Muatide village in Muidumbe district for at least four days, using a soccer field as a dumping ground for the bodies of dozens of boys and young men they had captured and decapitated in the surrounding areas. On November 4, they also raided and burned houses in nearby Nampanha village, but the villagers had already fled ahead of their arrival.

November 5-6, 2020
The insurgents almost completely burned down Nanjaba village northeast of Macomia town and beheaded two villagers. The next day, they proceeded east and burned houses in Napala village, while also killing another three civilians.

November 11, 2020
By this point, the insurgents had reportedly captured nine towns in Muidumbe district, and by some reports were in control of the district and advancing on the key town of Mueda to the west. Government forces had apparently withdrawn to Mueda after a defeat west of Muatide, leaving only local militias behind to counter the insurgents.

November 13, 2020
Insurgents raided the island of Metundo (which they apparently hadn't held onto after capturing it in September).

November 17-19, 2020
A government and Dyck PMC counter-offensive started in Muidumbe district and by November 19, they had recaptured the district capital and some surrounding villages, though insurgents were still present in surrounding areas.

November 22, 2020
Mozambique and Tanzania signed an agreement for the two countries' police forces to jointly battle the insurgents. Mozambique's police have played a leading role in offensives against the fighters.

November 23, 2020
Insurgents launched a maritime raid on the island of Quifuque, also seizing seven sailboats transporting foodstuffs north from Pemba - the fighters' first known venture into piracy at sea.

Syrian Civil War map: Territorial control in Syria in late November 2020 (Free Syrian Army rebels, Kurdish YPG, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS / Al-Nusra Front), and others). Includes areas of dispersed operational presence for so-called Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), Turkish/TFSA control, joint SDF-Assad control, US deconfliction zone, and Turkey-Russia security corridor. Colorblind accessible.
The so-called "Islamic State" lost its last known outpost in Syria in November 2020, adding to the ever-increasing prominence of global affiliate groups like the Cabo Delgado insurgents.
November 26, 2020
Insurgents once again captured the district capital of Muidumbe, as well as the nearby town of Muatide, with government forces retreating to Mueda again after a defeat in the Mueda district town of Ntushi.

November 29, 2020
An insurgent ambush in a village of western Muidumbe district left 25 soldiers dead and 15 wounded. Among the dead were a colonel and a major.

December 7-10, 2020
Insurgents attacked and captured the village of Mute on the road from Mocímboa da Praia to Palma. The next day, the insurgents proceeded northwards and attacked the nearby town of Ngueo. The military recaptured Mute three days later. Mute was housing some of the LNG site's contract workers, leading Total to pause its operations due to the fighting.

Meanwhile, the Mozambican government had reportedly declared a helicopter-enforced no-boat zone off the coasts of Mocímboa da Praia and Quissanga districts, temporarily cutting off Palma from resupply by sea as well as land.

December 8, 2020
Three insurgent attacks took place in Nangade district: one in Ntamba town, one in Nkonga village, and one in Mandimba village near Pundanhar.

December 9, 2020
In a raid at Chai in Macomia district, insurgents beheaded 12 people.

December 12, 2020
In a shooting spree across six villages in Nangade district, including Chicuaia Nova and Litingina, insurgents killed 14 civilians.

December 15, 2020
The Mozambican military attacked insurgents in the Awasse area, but was ultimately repelled and forced to withdraw to Mueda. Six soldiers and 24 insurgents were killed in the fighting.

December 16, 2020
Insurgents attacked five villages in Nangade district, including Nkonga, Namiune, and Litingina. Ten civilians were killed in Litingina.

December 18, 2020
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reported that the fighting in Mozambique had displaced more than 530,000 people.

December 23, 2020
Security forces repelled a second attack on Mute. Four insurgents were reportedly killed.

December 25, 2020
Police in Macomia district claimed that 37 insurgents had been killed in recent police operations.

December 27, 2020
Five civilians were killed in an insurgent attack in the village of Saba Saba in the north of Muidumbe district.

December 28-30, 2020
Insurgents attacked Olumbe, south of Palma, killing five civilians and staying in the village overnight. They returned to the village two days later. They also attacked a village just five kilometers south of the under-construction LNG plant.

January 1, 2021
Total suspended operations at the LNG site and evacuated its workers after small firefights involving insurgents reportedly broke out around its perimeter, including in the village of Quitunda. A month later, after a new agreement for Mozambican government forces to maintain a 25km security zone around the site, the project would be operating with a skeleton crew of 1,000 workers.

January 5, 2021
Insurgents attacked the island of Quirimba in Ibo district.

January 7, 2021
Insurgents attacked fishermen on the coast between Ingoane and Pangane in Macomia district, then proceeded to raid Matemo Island.

January 15-16, 2021
Insurgent attacks took place on the Nangade-Palma road, one of which, at Pundanhar, killed five people.

January 16, 2021
Government forces attacked insurgents hiding in a mosque in Olumbe town of Palma district.

January 18-23, 2021
Insurgents built a roadblock in Nova Zambezia, cutting off access to the Chai area by land-based security forces in Macomia town. Meanwhile, another group of insurgents engaged in a heated battle with government forces in Olumbe town of Palma district.

January 21-26, 2021
Insurgents captured the village of Mandimba in Nangade district before withdrawing five days later. They also raided a border guard post near the village, as well as the nearby village of Namiune.

January 24, 2021
Insurgents forced government forces to withdraw from Olumbe to Palma.

January 30, 2021
Insurgents burned houses in a raid on Nkonga village of Nangade district. Around the same date, there was reportedly a major battle between insurgents and a pro-government militia at a village west of Mitope, across the district boundary in Mocímboa da Praia.

January 2021
International medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, returned to Macomia district after having withdrawn in June 2020. The development suggested that evaluations on the ground found threats to the district center to have largely subsided.

February 1, 2021
Insurgents attacked Lijungo, in Nangade district.

February 5, 2021
The military launched an offensive towards Awasse, reaching the town, but no further advances were reported.

February 8-11, 2021
The military, possibly supported by the Dyck PMCs (though the government was expected to be receiving a new shipment of its own helicopters too), attacked insurgent positions in the areas of Mbau, Chinda and Miangalewa and between Mbau and Chitunda. The remote areas within this sector seem to have formed something of an insurgent stronghold since 2018.

February 16, 2021 
A battle between government forces and insurgents in a village just west of Diaca raised questions about the strength of government control over routes leading towards Awasse. Insurgents also attacked Xitaxi, in Muidumbe district, the same day.

February 19-27, 2021
Insurgents attacked Quionga town in the north of Palma district, staying until the next morning. In the evening, they attempted to return but were turned back by security forces, retreating into Tanzania. Six days later, the insurgents attacked nearby Quirinde village, and on February 27 assaulted a border post at Namoto.

February 22-25, 2021
Insurgents conducted two attacks on either side of the boundary between Nangade and Mocímboa da Praia districts, in the villages of "Ingalonga" (presumably Ngalonga) and Mitope. Three days later, another attack took place in a village near Nangade town.

March 1-6, 2021
In a series of attacks, insurgents nearly cut off Nangade town from the outside world. On March 1, they set up roadblocks on the road between Nangade and Mueda and conducted an attack on a village near Litingina. The next day, more roadblocks were set up at "Muiha" village - probably Muhia, northwest of Nangade near the borders with the Mueda district and Tanzania. 

On March 3, soldiers were ambushed at one of the roadblocks near Litingina and three were killed. Meanwhile, two civilians were killed at Ngangolo village south of Litingina. Another village was also raided east of Litingina. On March 4, the insurgents came closer to Nangade and attacked 3rd February village nine kilometers east of the town, burning homes. The village east of Litingina was also raided again. 

Two days later, government forces attacked Nkonga, in the east of Nangade district, which had been taken over by the insurgents and turned into a base. A number of insurgents were killed or captured and hostages were freed. 

Meanwhile, a second attack in Namoto, Palma district destroyed the border post there, though the police staffing it were safely evacuated.

March 6-10, 2021
Insurgents attacked three villages in Nangade district, including Chacamba and Namuembe, while government forces cleared an insurgent roadblock in Litingina. Several days later, a pro-government militia killed eight alleged insurgents said to be planning on attacking Ntamba town and the village of Liche.

March 10, 2021
The United States government added Mozambique's insurgents to its official lists of Foreign Terrorist Organizations and Specially Designated Global Terrorists, calling the group by the newly-coined name "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – Mozambique (ISIS-Mozambique)". ("ISIS" is a name not used by the so-called "Islamic State" itself since 2014, and the group usually just refers to the Mozambique insurgents as part of its "Central Africa Province", alongside a separate armed group operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo). The designations make it a crime under US law to provide "material support or resources" to the insurgents.

The move was frowned upon by many conflict analysts. Cabo Ligado called it a "bargain for IS", arguing that it was unlikely to cost the insurgents much, even while playing neatly into the group's propaganda about global jihad. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a major US-based, politically-centrist think tank, called on the government to consider revoking the designations, presenting a detailed argument that they would do much to prevent humanitarian aid and de-escalation of the conflict, but very little to actually hinder the insurgents' activities. The International Crisis Group made a similar argument, and suggested that the US government was counterproductively exaggerating the ties between IS proper and the Mozambique insurgency.

The designation came at something of an awkward time, since IS had not actually claimed any attacks in Mozambique since November 2020. It was also unusual in that it listed a leader of IS's Mozambique branch: one Abu Yassir Hassan, who it said was a Tanzanian in his late 30s. Next to nothing is publicly known about the Mozambique insurgents' internal organization or leadership, and even Mozambique's government had never named their leader. Cabo Ligado analysis pointed out, incidentally, that being the official leader of IS in Mozambique might not necessarily be the same thing as being the top commander of the local insurgents.

Flag of the Republic of Mozambique as of 2020 Country Name:  
• Mozambique (English)
Moçambique (Portuguese)
Official Name:  
• Republic of Mozambique (English)
República de Moçambique (Portuguese)
Capital: Maputo
March 13, 2021
The town of Palma was widely reported to be effectively besieged by insurgents, with food running short due to the roads to the town being cut by insurgent activity.

March 20, 2021
The US deployed its Army Special Forces - the so-called "Green Berets" - to Mozambique on a two-month mission to train the Mozambican marines in counter-insurgency tactics. A very similar training program had already been carried out in Mozambique in 2019.

March 24, 2021
Insurgents attacked fishermen working in the coastal areas of Mucojo and Quiterajo in Macomia district, which residents had recently begun to return after a lull in attacks. There were also rumors that the insurgents were camped near Manica, west of Mucojo.

March 24-31, 2021
A group of at least about 100 insurgents launched a three-pronged attack on Palma, the nearest major town to the under-construction LNG plant. Fighting around the town continued the next day as Dyck PMC helicopter gunships exchanged fire with the insurgents. On March 26, insurgents ambushed a convoy that was attempting to rescue civilians, including foreign gas workers, from a hotel. Some 180 foreign and local gas workers were trapped at the hotel. At least seven workers fleeing the hotel - but possibly as many as 50 - were killed in the ambush, including a South African. Earlier, 20 people had been flown to safety by helicopter, while many others (mostly Total employees) were evacuated by boat. Meanwhile, local residents fleeing to Tanzania were turned back at the border. Dozens of civilians were reportedly beheaded and shot during the attack on the town, while at least 21 soldiers were killed in the fighting. Some later reports estimated 36 insurgent deaths and 87 civilians killed in the multi-day battle.

By March 27, some reports said the town had come under insurgent control, after two-thirds of the town's buildings had been burnt down, though fighting continued the following day. 

On March 29, IS claimed responsibility for the attack, saying 55 people were killed as beheaded bodies were strewn in the streets, and said its fighters were in control of the town's government and financial district. This was the first attack in Mozambique claimed by IS since November 2020 - a lull that had led some analysts to speculate that the organization had broken off its affiliation with the Cabo Delgado insurgents. The details of the IS claim suggested that the group was privy to some of the insurgents' plans, but also that it had not been able to maintain consistent communication with them.

The army, police, and Dyck PMC helicopters were fighting the insurgents in pockets across the city. On March 30, the Mozambican government claimed it had defeated the insurgents in the town, only for a press tour of the city to come under attack. The same day, the Dyck PMCs recovered the body of a British contractor who had gone missing while trying to flee with the convoy from the hotel.

By March 31, there were signs that the government and its PMC allies had indeed turned the tables on the insurgents, and that the battle was beginning to die down.

April 2, 2021
Some 1,200 survivors from Palma reached the port of Pemba in the south of Cabo Delgado province. Meanwhile, security forces were reported to still have a presence in the port area of Palma. The same day, South Africa's government said it was deploying troops to Mozambique to protect its citizens, while reports later indicated that "roughly 50 South Africans, some armed" had been flown into the LNG site on Cabo Afungi (without specifying whether they were members of the country's military). Total, for its part, reported that it had fully ceased operations on the project and withdrawn all staff, even as the outskirts of the site, including Quitunda village, had by some accounts come under insurgent attack.

Elsewhere, insurgents seized control of the coastal village of Pangane in Macomia district.

April 4, 2021
The ACLED conflict database reported that 2,743 people had been killed since the start of the conflict, including 1,361 civilians. The same day, the contract between the Mozambican government and the Dyck Advisory Group was believed to have expired, with the PMCs to be replaced by Mozambican-operated helicopters recently supplied by another South African firm called Paramount Group. There were also some helicopters under the government's command that were reportedly operated by Ukrainian pilots.

April 5, 2021
Journalists were able to confirm that the Mozambican government had resecured Palma town - its forces claiming a "significant" number of insurgents were killed in the counter-assault - after several days of reports that the insurgent presence in the town was receding. (Note that the above map depicts the situation prior to the government's full recapture of Palma.)

April 8, 2021
A mass grave containing 12 decapitated bodies was discovered near the hotel used by the gas workers in Palma. The dead were reportedly foreigners and one was later identified as a Zimbabwean

Meanwhile, a small group of insurgents raided a village between Chai and Miangalewa, but were reportedly ambushed by a local militia.


Graphic of Mozambican flag is in the public domain (source).