Date of Event: 26 March 2021
Time of Event: 11:00
Location of Event: Palma Town
Distance from Pemba: 230km

More than a hundred insurgents attacked several locations in Palma town in Mozambique. The attacks started on March, 24th and they have succeeded in capturing a large part of the town.

Most of the residents, including many IDPs, fled into the surrounding bushes from locations surrounding Palma. A group of almost 200 expatriates were stuck in the Amarula Hotel on the outskirts of Palma. Efforts were made to evacuate the expatriates by road to either the Port or Afungi, but insurgent actions prevented any movement. The first expatriates were then evacuated by DAG helicopter (6 x pax per flight), and a total of 20 individuals were evacuated to Afungi before bad light made any further flights impossible. 172 Expatriates remained at the hotel for the night, with the plan to restart the evacuation this morning (26 March 2021). No effort to evacuate the remaining guest has been made yet as they are waiting for the arrival of the DAG helicopters from Pemba. The latest indications are that insurgents surround the hotel and that an effort is being made to access the hotel.

Meanwhile, the GSF Commanders in Afungi have indicated that the GSF units are running out of ammunition and that the situation is critical. Several clashes with insurgents occurred during a GSF offensive last night.

Meanwhile, the insurgents were reinforced by a group of insurgents travelling from Pundanhar by truck. An additional group of insurgents also entered the unmanned border post of Namoto last night, increasing the insurgent numbers even more. Despite the GSF offensive, it currently appears that the insurgents are in control of the town.

It is confirmed that the Standard Bank building and several Government buildings were torched and destroyed.

There is currently sporadic fighting between the insurgents and Government Security Forces(GSF).

According to a reliable source, the French Legionnaire Battalion deployed at the Island of Mayotte is currently on the way to Afungi to provide the necessary protection of Total personnel and infrastructure.

It has now emerged that the GSF had ample early warning of the pending attack against Palma. Military intelligence reported last week to both the PRM and the FADM that an attack was imminent. According to a well-placed and reliable source, the planning of the offensive against Palma was made in Mocímboa da Praia (MdP). This followed an earlier planning meeting that took place in Pemba. Earlier this week, it was reported that two trucks filled with insurgents were seen travelling from Diaca northwards to Palma. Independent reports stated that groups of insurgents were mobilized from Nangade, Nhica do Rovuma and Quionga. In addition to these reports, reliable sources stated that the insurgents initially planned to launch simultaneous attacks on Mueda, Nangade and Palma towns but decided to attack Palma first.

Regarding possible losses, the streets of Palma is littered with bodies lying on the roads across the Palma village, most of them decapitated. Several expatriates are still missing.

Comment: The success of insurgents in Palma increases the possibility of similar actions against Nangade and Mueda, especially as the attack against Palma was very well planned and coordinated, attacking multiple fronts simultaneously. The situation in Palma is currently looking very bleak, and it is unlikely that the GSF would be able to prevent a total insurgent takeover and occupation of the town. The fact that the intelligence of a pending attack on Palma was available and shared with the necessary actors, with no visible efforts to strengthen Palma’s defences, is extremely worrying.

The situation at the Amarula Hotel is critical, as it is clear that the insurgents are determined to access the hotel, and should that happen, the impact would be dire. It could even lead to the killing of all individuals in the hotel.

The French Legionnaires’ possible arrival would be some reprieve to Total in terms of safeguarding personnel and infrastructure. It would be highly unlikely, though, that they would get involved in the fight in Palma.