Militants linked to the Islamic State group have seized a heavily-defended port in Mozambique after days of fighting, according to reports. Local media say government forces that were in the far northern town of Mocimboa da Praia fled, many by boat, after Islamists stormed the port. The town is close to the site of natural gas projects worth $60m. In recent months militants have taken a number of northern towns, displacing tens of thousands of people. The port is used for cargo deliveries to the oil projects about 60km (37 miles) away, which are being developed by oil giants including Total. The question now is whether the rebels will – as they have hinted – try to hold on to this strategic city. That would mark a new escalation in a shadowy conflict that represents a major threat to Mozambique and to international plans to develop vast off-shore gas fields. The rebels have formal ties to IS, but are also feeding on local grievances in a long-neglected corner of the country.