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For more than a week, Islamic State-linked militants have laid siege to Palma, a coastal town in northern Mozambique that serves as a hub for natural gas projects worth a combined $60 billion. The sustained attack has left dozens of people dead, potentially displacing tens of thousands more. It is the most severe escalation of a jihadist insurgency that began in 2017, and is expected to exacerbate an already grave humanitarian crisis, even as it draws more international military support for the embattled Mozambican army.
The shadowy extremist group Ahlu-Sunnah Wa-Jama, or ASWJ, launched its offensive against Palma on March 24, quickly overrunning the town. The fighters cut telephone lines and, according to survivor accounts, ambushed people as they attempted to flee. Private security companies rescued trapped civilians using helicopters and boats.