Mozambique: Quissanga Attacked as Civil War Escalates

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Insurgents this morning occupied Quissanga, which is just 60 km by air and 120 km by road north of Pemba. (Lusa 25 Mar) It had been clear since the attack on Bilibiza on 29 January that insurgents were aiming at Quissanga, and there have been repeated attacks in the N380-Bilibiza-Quissango corridor. (This newsletter 467, 31 Jan 2020, and 472, 17 March 2020; A map of the area is available. Quissanga is an important local port providing links to Ibo and other Islands, as well as for shipping cargo north.

The picture shows insurgents in front of the Quissango police station and must be from this attack as it has not been attacked before. No other details are available. AIM today (25 Mar) reports that "other photos show bodies. In one there is a body wearing a uniform of the Mozambican armed forces (FADM), and in another the victim is wearing what seem to be police boots. The other photos are almost certainly of civilians. One is of a man whose body has been badly burnt and mutilated. Another is of a man wearing a pair of sandals, with no sign of any military equipment or uniform. The most gruesome of these photos shows a pile of seven bodies."

Apparently there were few people in the town; in response to growing threats, many had already fled, including by boat to Ibo and Pemba.

The attack comes just two days after insurgents occupied Mocimboa da Praia, on the coast 120 km further north. The insurgents raised their flag on the military barracks and police station, and burned various buildings including three banks and the houses of the mayor and district administrator.

They remained for the day on Monday, fraternizing with local people, and left in the late afternoon without being effectively challenged by security forces. Ministers of defence and interior, Jaime Neto and Amade Miquidade, yesterday travelled to Mocimboa da Praia to see what had gone wrong.

Bridge down again. The temporary bridge which provides the only paved road link between Pemba and the gas fields of the north has collapsed again, perhaps due to an overweight lorry, as the picture shows.

The temporary bridge is limited to vehicles of 10 tonnes. The bridge is over the Montepuez River on the N380 south of Macomia, and was a temporary replacement for a bridge that washed out in floods in December. (Bridge on the left of the map on https://bit.ly/BilibizaMap) A report of the washout suggests that the bridge had not been inspected or maintained for many years - perhaps since independence - and over years the river slowly washed the soil away from around the bridge piers and no one noticed. The alternative coastal route, from Pemba to Quissanga, remains closed because the bridge on that route over the Montepuez river also washed out and has not been repaired.  (Bridge on the right of the map.) Comment: It is the small and frustrating things that make some people argue that Mozambique is becoming a failed state - core infrastructure is not even inspected and dozens of bridges have been damaged or destroyed by overweight lorries. The roads authority imposed weight limits on this temporary bridge, but they were not enforced. jh

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