The fighting for the northern town and gas hub of Palma, which was captured by ISIL-affiliated assailants last month, claimed the lives of a “important” number of soldiers, according to Mozambique’s military.
Commander Chongo Vidigal, the commander in charge of military operations to retake Palma, told state television TVM that the region was “safe,” but he stopped short of announcing that the army had regained power.
“The airfield area was the only one we needed to clear and we did that this morning. It’s completely safe,” Vidigal told journalists on Sunday.
“I think that it is a significant number of terrorists who were shot down,” he said, adding authorities would clarify the exact number later.
Soldiers hurriedly pulled black plastic sheets over a body on the ground, according to footage broadcast by TVM. The blackened remains of many houses, including banks, the town’s hospital, and the state prosecutor’s office, were filmed by crews on the scene.
As a few remaining residents slowly sorted through the rubble, heavily armed soldiers stood on the street.
Dyck Advisory Group (DAG), a South African private military firm, has been bolstering security forces until now, but its deal with the government is coming to an end this week.
“God help the people,” DAG founder Lionel Dyck told AFP news agency via WhatsApp on Monday, adding it was “unlikely” soldiers had fully retaken Palma.