Islamic militants fighting in Palma, Mozambique are far better equipped and organised than previously, according to the chief executive of Dyck Advisory Group (DAG), a mercenary group supporting the government’s counter-insurgency efforts in Cabo Delgado province.
Retired colonel Lionel Dyck said they are “a different calibre of terrorist" that are "not running away as much as usual".
He said the insurgents' assault on Palma was well planned, describing it as “a three-pronged attack with mortars and heavy weapons that they’ve been using quite well".
Speaking to UK broadcaster the BBC this week, Dyck suggested the insurgents obtained their weapons from both Mozambique and further afield.
“They have captured quite a lot from military posts they have overrun (in Cabo Delgado). But there is no way they captured mortars, so I think they brought them in from Tanzania or somewhere further north.”
Dyck said the Palma assault should not be a surprise and believed the insurgents would have spent the rainy season planning the attack.
“We’ve had the rainy season, which has just ended, and now we’re in what people call the ‘fighting season’ when the roads dry up and the bush is easier to move through. I think they’ve had the non-fighting season to prepare.”
DAG is working in Cabo Delgado for Mozambique’s Ministry of Interior, which controls the police force, under a contract set to end early next month.
Dyck said when his men arrived in Palma on 25 March the situation was “very grim".
“There were bodies lying on the road. There were food trucks …with the drivers lying next to their vehicles without heads …the (insurgents) were going house to house to kill …people.”
He said DAG personnel and local police are involved in fighting in Palma and on rescue missions, and criticised Mozambican armed forces and French supermajor Total, operator of the Mozambique LNG project in nearby Afungi, for a lack of an evacuation plan.
Total declined to comment on this issue, but said “Mozambique LNG has been organising emergency support, including food and water supply, to people arriving next to the Afungi site” and is providing “all possible support to the Mozambican authorities for the rescue operations".
“Mozambique LNG does not contract with private military companies,” it added.