Palma, a town on the coast of Mozambique's Cabo Delgado Province previously captured by Islamic State affiliate Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamo (ASWJ), has been reclaimed by the Mozambique Armed Defense Forces (MADF). Although it remains unclear the exact number of casualties sustained by ASWJ or government forces, the quick return of the town to normalcy will be key if Maputo is to salvage the economic potential it once possessed.
The government of Mozambique has struggled to clamp down on the Islamic State’s Central Africa Province (ISCAP) for several years. Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamo, an offshoot of ISCAP, has long remained a thorn in the side of Maputo in its quest to develop into a strong and stable state. Specifically, ASWJ has proven extremely effective at hampering the potential economic development of Mozambique by targeting Light Natural Gas (LNG) projects along the country's shores.
On March 24, ASWJ acted on this strategy when several hundred fighters battled their way to within 6 miles of French energy conglomerate Total's Light Natural Gas (LNG) facility outside Palma. Although the exact cost of that offensive remains unclear, American intelligence agencies have indicated at least forty foreigners working or visiting the area were killed during the attack. Furthermore, in the weeks prior to the town's fall, at least half of the city's 75,000 residents fled towards surrounding metropolitan areas.
Although the recapture of the town is a major blow to Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamo on the tactical level, the operational and strategic blow to the government of Mozambique is significant. ASWJ has shown is clear terms to potential investors worldwide that the government in Maputo can not be trusted to protect major investments, while simultaneously disrupting the daily life of the local population. Thus, The Intelligence Ledger's original assessment remains true, as it is likely there will be a year-long delay until the overall security situation in Cabo Delgado improves.