PALMA, 5 April 2021 – Mozambican military authorities claimed Monday to have retaken the town of Palma, in the northern Cabo Delgado province.

A “significant” number of Islamist militants of al-Shabab were killed in the counter-offensive, said Omar Saranga, a ministry of defense ministry spokesperson told reporters.

Source ABC News

Source ABC News

Omar Saranga - Photo IOL

Omar Saranga – Photo IOL

Seven civilians who were trying to escape a siege on their hotel in Palma were ambushed by the Islamist militants who shot them dead.

A South African citizen and a British national were among those killed in an ambush.

Officials have said the attack on Palma was one of the biggest and best organized by the Islamist militants ever since the insurgency started in 2017.

On Monday, Mozambican State radio said residents who fled the fighting into nearby forests are starting to return to their homes.

Reinforcement Have Been Arriving Palma - Photo Al Jazeera

Reinforcement Have Been Arriving Palma – Al Jazeera

Dozens of civilians have been killed with at least 11,000 others believed to be internally displaced.

Communications remain cut in Palma making it impossible for most reporters to independently confirm the claims made by government forces.

In some of the first images from Palma broadcast Monday by state TV, soldiers can be seen, placing black sheets on mortal remains lying in the streets of the town.

This latest attack was launched last March 24.

The assailants have engaged in gun battles with Mozambican soldiers in Palma since then.

The town of Pemba, which is situated 155 miles (250km) south of Palma, has been overwhelmed by an influx of people fleeing the crisis in Palma or those evacuated from the town.

Around 90 percent of those fleeing the crisis have been taken in by relatives.

The others have been forced to cram into schools, hotels, makeshift tented camps, and a sports stadium, according to Francesca Fontanini, a spokesperson for the UNHCR.

People Struggling to Take the First Boats out of Palma to Pemba - Photo Alfredo Zuniga, AFP

Trying to Jump on First Boats out of Palma to Pemba – Photo Alfredo Zuniga, AFP

Palma itself was once considered a safe haven for persons fleeing violence elsewhere in the province.

Mozambican armed and security forces previously claimed to be in full control of Palma even as fighting continued and played out for another five days.

Palma is considered a logistical town situated just 10km away from the site of one of the biggest investment projects in Africa.

The $20bn liquified natural gas plant will help process off-shore reserves worth a total of about $60 billion, according to some estimates.

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