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Saturday, 8th May, 2021
 Mozambique   ::   News
Mozambique: Dozens died after militant attack on Palma
Mar 29, 2021
Source: CEOAfrica News: Agency

Dozens of people have died after Islamist militants attack a town in northern Mozambique, officials say.

On Wednesday, militants in their hundreds stormed the Mozambique city of  Palma , targeting shops, banks and a military barracks.

During a siege on a hotel, seven people were shot dead while trying to escape, said a spokesperson from the country's defence department, Omar Saranga.

The militants behind the conflict in the predominantly Muslim region are linked to the Islamic State (IS) group.

Since the insurgency started in 2017, the raids have left more than 2,500 people dead and 700,000 displaced.

Foreigners are not excluded as together with the locals numbering in their hundreds, have reportedly been rescued from Palma after the attack.

Some witnesses have narrated how they had to hide as they waited to be rescued by boat, on a beach littered with headless bodies.

Marine traffic websites showed a string of vessels around the town, and the port of Pemba to the south, as people tried to escape by any means - cargo vessels, passenger ships, tugs and recreational boats.

Palma lies close to a major gas project run by the French energy giant Total, and over a 100 workers and civilians sought refuge in the Amarula Palma hotel.

"Last Wednesday, a group of terrorists sneaked into... Palma and launched actions that resulted in the cowardly murder of dozens of defenceless people," defence ministry spokesman Mr Saranga said at a news conference on Sunday.

What do we know of the rescue?

One contractor told the newsmen that many who escaped from the hotel via convoy hid at the beach overnight on Friday and were evacuated by boat on Saturday morning.

According to him,  more people were taken to safety after him, and that the boats would be returning to rescue more stranded people.

He also said civilians living and working in the area appeared to be co-ordinating the rescue effort.

"Local suppliers and companies, these guys were heroes of the entire operation. In the wee hours they managed to co-ordinate and reach out to the evacuees on the beach and got them on to boats and got them into safety."

"Where the hell was the support from big companies, from countries?" he asked.

A South African man is said to be among those killed.

Adrian Nel was killed while trying to escape, his mother Meryl Knox told newsmen.

Her husband, Gregory, managed to make it out of Palma - though she told AFP that he had to carry the body of their dead son until he was rescued. Her other son was also able to escape.

Ms Knox said, there was no presence of the army to protect them... it was a matter of, 'run for your life'".

"This could have been avoided," she added. "My son could still be alive today."

A source close to the rescue operation told AFP news agency that a boat carrying around 1,400 people had arrived in the port town of Pemba, which is about 250km (155 miles) south of Palma, on Sunday afternoon.

What's the situation now in Palma?

The precise number of casualties in Palma, a town of about 75,000 people in Cabo Delgado province, is unclear as many are still unaccounted for.

The town and beaches are littered with bodies "with heads and without", according to Col Lionel Dyke, whose private security firm, Dyck Advisory Group, is contracted by the Mozambique police in the area.

The armed group is reported to have taken control of Palma, but those claims are hard to verify amid a communications blackout.

People running from the fighting ran into nearby forests, mangroves or nearby villages.

Another group had tried escaping the hotel in a convoy of vehicles on Friday, aiming for a nearby beach. At least 20 of them were reportedly taken to safety in helicopters, but others were ambushed outside the hotel.

Though there are speculations, it is yet to be confirmed if British citizens are caught up in the hotel siege.

Mozambique- Monday 29, March 2021: One company, RA International, told the BBC that it had yet to locate a British national who was at the Amarula Hotel during the attack. The company says it last heard from its employee on Friday afternoon. Seven of its local staff have made it to safety.

The UK parliamentary under-secretary of state for Africa, James Duddridge, tweeted that the government was contacting Britons in the area to provide support, adding: "The UK wholeheartedly condemns the appalling violence in Cabo Delgado. It must stop. We stand with the people of Mozambique against terror."


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