An international lobby group on Friday urged the Mozambican government to help civilians trapped by fighting in Cabo Delgado Province to move to safer areas.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that government security forces had imposed restrictions that prevented thousands of residents from leaving Cabo Delgado Province.
In a statement HWR said that this has put the lives of civilians at risk.
“Government forces have an obligation to assist people threatened by fighting and food shortages to move to safer areas,” said HRW Africa Director Mausi Segun.
“The Mozambican authorities should immediately allow civilians to leave Cabo Delgado combat zones and ensure humanitarian aid reaches those in need,” he added.
Mocimboa da Praia District
Cabo Delgado has a population of 1,893,156 spread over its 77,867km² in 16 districts.
The attacks began on police stations in Mocimboa da Praia District, before spreading to other districts in the northern part of Cabo Delgado, especially in Macomia, Palma and Nangade.
Islamic State-linked militants launched attacks on the northeastern coastal town of Palma on March 24, ransacked buildings where they beheaded civilians.
Known locally as Al-Shabaab — but with no relation to the Somali-based terror group — the militants in Cabo Delgado have launched a series of raids on towns and villages to establish an Islamic caliphate.
“The fuel supply and commercial banking sectors have also been affected. Agricultural practice has been negatively affected. People do not feel safe going to the fields,” he added.
Between March and July several people including humanitarian workers, army officials, and journalists have been trapped in the war-torn province.
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HRW analysed satellite images of fighting in Palma town and massive fires in surrounding areas since late April, the statement added.
“Thousands of Palma residents trekked for several days to Pemba, the provincial capital. Others went by boat, spending days at sea without food or water, while others took government rescue planes, in some cases only after paying bribes to soldiers to secure seats,” the lobby said.
“Thousands of people fled Palma and went to Quitunda. The number of people in Quitunda, a community originally designed to house 300 families displaced by liquefied natural gas projects, is not known and the ongoing hostilities may have increased the number of displaced people there,” added the statement by HRW.
Some civilians have managed to flee the Palma district since the attacks in March, particularly when fighting intensified in April, May and June.