The Islamic State group claimed on Monday that it had captured Mozambique’s coastal town of Palma following days of fighting.
“The caliphate’s soldiers seize the strategic town of Palma”, the group said in a statement.
It claimed that its offensive, which is mainly aimed at military and government targets, had killed dozens of troops and “members of Crusader states,” its term for Western nationals.
The announcement comes in the wake of more than four days of fighting that began last Wednesday when insurgents linked to the group attacked Palma, home to about 75,000 people in Mozambique’s resource-rich Cabo Delgado province.
The attack has left the town deserted as thousands of people were forced to flee the town to the provincial capital, Pemba, according to humanitarian agencies.
International aid agency sources said between 6,000 and 10,000 people are waiting to be evacuated to safety following the raid on Palma that began last Wednesday.
The government said dozens, including a South African national, were killed in the attack, including seven people caught in an ambush during an operation to evacuate them from a hotel where they had sought refuge.
Mozambique’s Ministry of Defence spokesperson Omar Saranga however said the insurgents had been unable to occupy any of the positions held by the defence and security forces who had held their ground in Palma, and had ensured the evacuation of hundreds of people.
He said the Mozambican forces are continuing to pursue the terrorists intending “to eliminate some pockets of sporadic resistance”.