Speaking to reporters in Maputo, Rafael admitted that, although the terrorist group had seized control of Mocimboa da Praia, the defence and security forces were doing all in their power to restore order.
“We confirm that this morning, in Mocimboa da Praia town, groups of criminals forced their way in, and began to exchange fire with the defence and security forces”, he said.
He added that the defence forces are urging the public to remain vigilant, lest the insurgents try to merge with the local population. He said that, by late morning, the two sides were continuing to exchange fire in the town.
The electronic version of the independent daily “O Pais” reported that some of the townspeople were hiding in their own homes, while others sought refuge in buildings believed to be safe, such as the local hospital.
On eye-witness told the paper “we were surprised by the noise of the shooting and we left the house at a run. Since we were near the hospital, we decided we would go and hide here”. He said the hospital was full of over 100 refugees fleeing from this latest islamist attack.
Another resident claimed the insurgents were using heavy weaponry such as bazookas and that the government forces had fled from his part of the town. He said that many of the attackers were armed with bush knives. “They’re going through the neighbourhoods and, if they find you, they’ll knife you”, he declared.
This is the first time the insurgents have taken control of a town, and hoisted their black flag, since the terrorist incursions began in October 2017.