Daesh-linked militants in northern Mozambique have seized two tiny islands in the Indian Ocean, threatening sea traffic in an area where a multi-billion-dollar offshore gas exploration project is under development.
The seizure of Mecungo and Vamisse islands comes a month after the terrorists occupied the strategic port town of Mocimboa da Praia, which was used for cargo deliveries for the development of the gas project.
Witnesses said the militants arrived in small fishing boats at night Wednesday and removed people from their houses before torching them.
They ordered residents to leave the islands mostly inhabited by internally-displaced people who fled their villages on the mainland where attacks have escalated.
“They got us together and told us to run away if we want to live. I think everyone left the island,” one witness told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Government forces are still battling to retake the Mocimboa da Praia port since it was occupied on August 12.
France's energy company Total, which is investing $23 billion in the gas exploration project, stated that it no longer relies on the occupied port.
The Takfiri terrorists have carried out attacks in the region since 2017, displacing more than 250,000 people and killing at least 1,500.
There have been a growing number of attacks by militant groups in former colonized countries across East and Central Africa amid the persistent presence of foreign military forces to protect their interests in the mineral-rich yet very impoverished nations.
Following a coup against French-backed Mali’s president last month, the European Union suspended its military missions in the former French colony aimed at training the country’s army and police forces under the pretext of stabilizing the impoverished nation.
Drawn up in late 2012 to help Mali's army regain control of the country after France drove out militants in the north, the EU military mission (EUTM Mali) has more than 600 soldiers from 28 European countries including EU and non-member states.
Its headquarters in Mali's capital Bamako was targeted by militants in 2016.
The coup in Mali has raised the prospects of further political turmoil in the country which, like other countries in the region, is facing an expanding threat from Daesh-linked militants.
Militants and inter-ethnic violence in Mali and neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso killed at least 4,000 people in 2019, according to the United Nations.
This is while the entire Sahel region is seeing ever more brazen attacks by Daesh-linked militants despite the beefing up of national armies and the deployment of 5,100 French troops.
Other countries in the region, such as Nigeria, Somalia, and Mozambique have also seen a major surge in militancy and many instances of deadly attacks against military and civilian targets in the past decade.
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