"Multiple photographs and videos showed militants driving around Mocimboa da Praia engaging with the local population. In addition to highlighting their mobility, this shows a level of community support not previously witnessed, with the group clearly focused on winning 'hearts and minds',” reports Control Risks (24 Mar). "Potential sympathy from the local community will bolster al-Sunnah’s ability to recruit members and secure future supplies." This is reported in more detail below in an article by investigative reporters Nazira Suleimane and Estacio Valoi.
After a series of attacks close to Mocimboa da Praia over the past three weeks,up to 100 insurgents moved into the town after midnight Monday (23 Mar), apparently arriving both by sea and land. They barricaded all of the roads into town and at 04.00 began their attack, occupying the port, police station (freeing prisoners) and the military barracks, and raising their black flag. The did major damage burning cars and buildings, including two banks. They damaged the district government offices, the municipal council, the residences of the mayor and district administrator, the civil registry office and the local secondary school. Lusa published pictures supplied by residents showing burned cars and buildings, including the police station: bit.ly/Mocimboa-photos
Gunfire was heard during the day, and some reports say that the insurgents successfully held off attacks by military reinforcements. Lusa (24 Mar) reports one resident saying there were dead bodies, both military and civilian, on the streets. Other reports claim local military and police fled and there was no fighting.
During the day, the insurgents patrolled Mocimboa da Praia in small groups, fraternizing with local people and distributing food. In the late afternoon the insurgents boarded trucks and boats, saying good bye to local people, and apparently receiving applause in some places, left the town. Soldiers and police finally moved into the town this morning.
This is the "most significant attack to date" says Control Risks. "The attack underscores al-Sunnah’s rapidly evolving tactics and growing willingness to engage in extended skirmishes with the security forces. … The incident marks a significant strategic shift by al-Sunnah, involving the coordination of a large number of militants to conduct a complex attack. The militants were well armed and supplied, evidenced by their ability to hold off security forces for most of the day."