Portugal to Send Special Forces to Former Colony Mozambique after Islamist Insurgents’ Attack on Palma
Portugal is going to dispatch soldiers from its special forces to its former colony Mozambique to provide training to local troops in the wake of the recent attack by Islamist insurgents on the northern Mozambican town of Palma.
A bilateral agreement stipulating the sending of a total of 60 Portuguese special forces troops to Mozambique is being finalized, and they are going to arrive in the African country in the first half of April, Lusa news agency reported on Tuesday based on a source from Portugal‘s Defense Ministry, as cited by France24.
Before that, on Monday, Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told state TV channel RTP a team of “around 60” soldiers were “getting ready” to Mozambique “in the coming weeks” in order to “support the Mozambican army in training special forces.”
Mozambique gained independence from Portugal in 1975 after a 10-year independence war.
The ongoing Islamist insurgency in Northern Mozambique was launched in 2017. However, it escalated tremendously last Wednesday, after jihadists attacked the northern town of Palma.
Palma is situated 10 kilometers (6 miles) away from the site of a natural gas extraction project on a nearby peninsula, which being developed by French company Total and other energy giants, worth billions of US dollars.
Many expatriates and locals fled from the jihadist attack on Palma to the heavily guarded gas plant on the nearby Afungi peninsula.
“A significant number of civilians rescued from Palma are also being transported to Afungi site, where they receive humanitarian and logistical support,” French energy giant Total said in a statement on Monday.
The exact death toll from the jihadist attack in Palma remains unknown but according to Mozambique’s government, dozens of people have been killed. The town was almost fully abandoned by its residents, who fled south by road, boat or on foot.
Many survivors walked for days to reach Mueda, 180 kilometers (112 miles) to the south, while others arrived on boats in Pemba, the provincial capital around 250 kilometres to the south. According to aid agencies, up to 10,000 people were awaiting evacuation.
Some 700,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by the Islamist insurgency in Northern Mozambique so far, many of them taking refuge in Pemba.
On Monday, the three-day raid against military and government targets in Palma was claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, which said it had gained control of the town.
The insurgents are known locally as al-Shabab but are not believed to be connected to the al-Shabab jihadist organization in Somalia.
Earlier, this month, the US State Department stated that the Islamist group in Northern Mozambique reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State back in April 2018.
The US State Department also named its leader to be Abu Yasir Hassan, and declared him a global terrorist.
“[The United States is] committed to working together with the government of Mozambique [to counter terrorism and defeat the IS group],“ the State Department declared.
As a long-time colony of Portugal, Mozambique was known as Portuguese East Africa.
Part of the territories of what is today Mozambique were reached as early as 1498 by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama on his ground-breaking voyage to India which opened up a trade route from Europe to South, Southeast and East Asia, circumventing the Ottoman Empire, which had conquered Constantinople less than 50 years prior.
Mozambique, first only its Indian Ocean coast, was then an overseas possession, or colony, of Portugal for 470 years – from 1505 until 1975. (In 1505-1952 as a Colony of the Portuguese Empire; in 1952-1972 as an Overseas Province of Portugal, and in 1972-1975 as a State of the Portuguese Empire.)
The 10-year-old independence war between the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) and Portugal last from 1964 until 1974, and negotiated independence was declared in June 1975. It was part of the Portuguese Colonial Wars (1961 – 1975) including also the independence movements in others of Portugal’s African colonies, Angola and Guinea-Bissau, which back then also incorporated Cabo Verde.
Ivan Dikov, the founder of HeartlandHinterland.com, is the author of the book “Madman Diplomacy: Is North Korea Trying to Bring Back Regime Change?“, among other books.