(The Southern African Times) – South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa held an urgent meeting with his Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapsia-Nqakula on Saturday following his announcement that he had sent troops to Mozambique to evacuate South Africans trapped in the wake of recent deadly attacks by ISIS-affiliated jihadist fighters.
Ramaphosa did not specify how many South African soldiers had been sent into Mozambique, but he assured the public that everything was being done to repatriate nationals caught up the the latest wave of violence.
Heavily armed militants took control of the northern coastal town of Palma, in the Cabo Delagdo region last week during a four day assault, forcing terrified residents and foreigners to flee.
One South African man was among the dozens of people killed in the attack carried out by the group believed to be affiliated with the Daesh/ISIS. His body has since been returned home.Forty three South Africans who were missing after the attack have been accounted for, government sources said.
At least 180 people sought shelter in the Amarula Hotel in Palma at the time, but communication lines are cut and it remains difficult to find out how many people are trapped.
Hundreds of people managed to flee by boat from Palma to the provincial capital of Pemba in the days following the attacks.
The United States has sent a detachment of special forces to Mozambique to provide anti-insurgency training to government forces.
Portugal has made a similar offer to its former colony as has the European Union.
Government security forces in Mozambique are also bolstered by a South African private military company, Dyck Advisory Group (DAG).
Mozambique which has shown itself to be incapable of containing the insurrection initially asked neighboring South Africa for military assistance.
Ramaphosa declined saying the country’s national defence force it was not able to act unilaterally in a conflict of this magnitude.
His hand has been forced by his nationals, mostly involved in the gas project, becoming imperiled.
There is no indication how long the South African troops will remain in Mozambique.
Both the African Union and the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) have discussed providing multilateral military assistance to Mozambique. However, they do not have the financial means to do this without help from the United Nations.