Suspected jihadists on Wednesday staged a second brazen attack in northern Mozambique in three days, seizing and destroying a police station, sources said.
On Monday the jihadists surrounded Mocimboa da Praia, a town in the gas-rich province of Cabo Delgado, attacking a military base, ransacking government buildings and hoisting their flag before pulling back.
At dawn on Wednesday, they raided the town of Quissanga, a police officer in Macomia, around 50km (30 miles) away, told AFP.
“In 20 minutes or so the police surrendered and they (the Islamists) captured the district police headquarters and destroyed it,” the sources said.
A photograph seen by AFP showed eight masked and camouflaged fighters, armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, posing in front of the partly burned offices.
One of them hoisted a black-and-white flag with Arabic inscriptions on it.
“Many people are fleeing by boat, trying to escape to the (provincial) capital Pemba,” 60km away by sea, a journalist there said.
The Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP), affiliated with the so-called Islamic State group, claimed Monday’s attack.
“Clashes took place with a variety of weapons, which led to killing and wounding dozens of elements, while the rest of them fled, and the mujahideen captured weapons, ammunition and multiple vehicles, then returned safely to their positions,” it said in a statement released late Tuesday.
The toll could not be verified independently, and the government has not released any figures.
Cabo Delgado has been battered by jihadist attacks since October 2017, although the identity of the assailants remains unclear.
Locals call the group Al-Shabaab, but it is not linked to the group of the same name operating in battle-scarred Somalia.
More than 700 people have been killed, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF), and at least 100,000 people have been displaced, according to the United Nations and humanitarian agencies.
President Filipe Nyusi vowed to stem the Cabo Delgado attacks after he was sworn in for a second five-year term in January.
But government troops have been struggling to restore order, despite pressure by oil giants to deploy more soldiers in the area.