Report: Mozambique Soldiers Trap Civilians in Insurgent-hit North 

Mozambican security forces are preventing tens of thousands of civilians displaced by jihadist attacks around the northern town of Palma from moving to safer areas, Human Rights Watch said.Most of these people fled their homes when Islamic State-linked militants launched coordinated attacks on Palma on March 24, killing dozens as they ransacked their way through the port town.Many of the displaced sought refuge in the nearby village of Quitunda, close to a major gas project about five kilometers (three miles) from Palma, where HRW claims, in a report released Friday, they have been trapped by troops and ongoing fighting.”Government security forces have imposed restrictions that have prevented tens of thousands from leaving, placing them at risk from fighting and aid shortages,” HRW said in a statement, adding that civilians caught trying to flee were “physically assaulted.”Mozambique has been grappling with a homegrown insurgency terrorizing its gas-rich Cabo Delgado province since 2017.The attack on Palma prompted other African countries to deploy troops to back the struggling Mozambique army.HRW accuses Mozambique of restricting movement around Palma district, making it difficult for humanitarian groups to deliver aid and exposing civilians to renewed militant attacks.Army officials have defended the measures, claiming jihadists are hiding among civilians and aid workers, according to the watchdog.”Soldiers didn’t allow us to leave Quitunda, but there is nothing there, no food, no medicine, and the water is dirty,” a 28-year-old man told HRW.”I tried to flee Quitunda three times before. Soldiers caught me and whipped me hard,” he added.Defense ministry spokesman Custodio Massingue told AFP he was unaware of the allegations and that the government “distances itself from the reports.”Cabo Delgado’s insurgency has displaced more than 800,000 people.The violence has killed more than 2,800 people, half of them civilians, according to U.S. conflict tracker ACLED.It has also set back multibillion-dollar gas exploration projects off the Afungi peninsula.

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