Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

The private military contractor providing aerial support to Mozambican ground forces battling Islamic State-linked insurgents near a $20bn  natural gas project is set to leave the country in a week.

Dyck Advisory Group’s (DAG’s) one-year agreement is coming to an end and has not been extended, with the last helicopter gunship flights on April 2, Lionel Dyck, the South African company’s founder, said by phone. That could leave state troops exposed as they continue a house-to-house mission to find insurgents remaining in Palma, the closest town to the Total site where fighting is continuing, he said.

The attack on Palma is the latest in a series of assaults that have taken the conflict in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province closer to the natural gas finds that are crucial for the nation’s economic future. The three-year insurgency is putting as much as $120bn  of investment at stake.

“House clearing is the most dangerous form of combat,” Dyck said. “It helps a hell of a lot if you have the aerial support for that. And the aerial support has got to be little helicopters like mine, which are nippy and can turn around and duck and dive.”

While the Total site is not at risk of a direct raid at present, the militant’s use of mortars allows them to fire from a distance, he said.

DAG has come under criticism for its involvement in the war, including from Amnesty International, which accused it of firing indiscriminately into crowds — allegations Dyck said the company is investigating. The US government has said the contractors are not playing a helpful role and its marines are now training Mozambican soldiers to defeat the group it has labelled as a terrorist organisation.

The government hired Dyck’s company a year ago as the insurgents were raiding towns in Cabo Delgado and rapidly advancing towards the provincial capital of Pemba.

“The insurgents would’ve been in Pemba” were it not for his company’s involvement, Dyck said. “A year ago, Pemba was at risk. It’s no longer at risk, but if we leave and there is no real effort to protect it, it will be a problem.”

Bloomberg

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