Jihadist attack forces MSF to suspend north Mozambique operations

Johannesburg (AFP) –


Global healthcare charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Friday it has suspended medical support in northern Mozambique following an attack by Islamist militants last week.

Gunmen descended on the town of Macomia in the early hours of May 28, causing thousands of inhabitants to flee as security forces withdrew.

The insurgents set fire to homes, schools and government buildings and destroyed a health centre where MSF had been operating.

The charity said in a statement that its "teams have been forced to suspend medical support in Macomia" after the attack.

MSF had 27 staff working in Macomia -- their only deployment in the gas-rich Cabo Delgado province, which has been grappling with an escalating jihadist insurgency since 2017.

"They hid in the bush for nearly two days terrified to come out," said head of mission Caroline Gaudron Rose, adding that the escapees had all been rescued.

"Our ability to reach those in need is jeopardised by this increase in violence."

Attacks by a shadowy Islamist group known as Al-Shabaab -- which has no link to the group of the same name operating in Somalia and Kenya -- have killed more than 1,100 people over the last two years.

The jihadists have grown bolder in recent weeks, stepping up attacks as part of a campaign for an Islamist caliphate in Cabo Delgado.

More than 211,000 people have fled their homes in the province, according to the UN, and there is growing concern among energy companies in the region.

MSF said there were still thousands of displaced people hiding in the bush following the attack.

"Without shelter, clean water and access to medical care, they are extremely vulnerable," said Gaudron Rose.