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Palma returnees accuse Mozambican security forces of abuses

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Marc Hoogsteyns/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Following a successful military campaign between Mozambican and Rwandan government forces in seizing strategic towns from militants in northeastern Mozambique, residents have begun returning to their homes as a sense of calm has been restored.

Some however have expressed mistrust in the Mozambican police.

They've alleged officers have perpetrated acts of violence against them in their fight with Muslim militants in the area.

On Sunday, both Rwandan and Mozambican officers met with residents of the Cabo Delgado province to assure them of a safe return.

But those attending the meeting were skeptical.

"We are tired of fleeing and our children being killed," said Avyuma Musa, a resident.

Approximately 150 residents attended to express their concerns.

"We want to show our presence. The population is coming back but they are still very scared and they are not feeling safe. We are telling them that the war is finished and that they have to return to reclaim their properties," said Justin Rukara, Senior Superintendent for Rwandan Police.

In March 2021, jihadist militants staged an attack in Mozambique's northern town of Palma causing residents to flee into a dense tropical forest surrounding the town.

A few hundred foreign workers mostly from South Africa, Britain and France had to seek shelter at the Hotel Amarula.

On the 19th of March 2021 a group of them attempted to escape the area in 17 vehicles by driving in a convoy to the beach with hopes of being rescued.

However, 10 of those vehicles were ambushed and seven people lost their lives.

Insurgent fire raged on at the beach in a bid to prevent access to rescue efforts via air or sea.

After the attack, the militants left a trail of destruction.

Before the deployment of the Rwandan forces, Mozambique’s military and police had not succeeded in stemming rebels’ offensives.

In their four-year insurgency the extremist rebels, loosely allied to the Islamic State group, extended their influence over a large area and created a humanitarian emergency in Cabo Delgado province.

More than 3,000 Mozambicans have been killed and 800,000 people displaced by the rebellion.

Nearly 1 million people need urgent food aid as a result of the conflict, according to the U.N. World Food Program.

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