Dozens of people have been killed in an attack by Islamist insurgents on the northern Mozambique town of Palma.
A spokesman for the country’s defence and security forces confirmed the attack this week. Among the dead were seven people killed when a convoy of cars was ambushed in an escape attempt.
The number of people injured and killed in the four-day assault on Palma, or still unaccounted for, remained unclear and concerns have been sparked for British and Irish citizens caught in the bloodbath.
Dozens of people have been killed in an attack by Islamist insurgents on the northern Mozambique town of Palma
Hundreds of other people, both local and foreigners, have been rescued from the town, next to gas projects worth $60 billion.
Evacuees included foreign gas workers, the BBC reported.
Witnesses have described bodies in the streets of Palma, some of them beheaded. On Friday, militants ambushed a convoy of people, including foreign workers, attempting to escape a hotel.
A British contractor was among the dead, killed when suspected Islamist insurgents attacked his hotel compound, The Times reported earlier.
A South African woman, Meryl Knox, said that her son Adrian Nel died in the attack.
Her husband and another son hid with his body in the bush until the following morning, when they were able to make it to safety in Pemba, she told Reuters.
Speaking to Sky News, Knox said that her son was shot as he tried to escape a hotel.
Nel, 40, from South Africa was shot dead in a vehicle he was trying to flee in with his father and younger brother.
Adrian Nel, 40, pictured above, from South Africa was shot dead in a vehicle he was trying to escape in with his father and younger brother
‘When they were driving out unfortunately the insurgents ambushed them and my son was shot,’ his mother said. Nel is pictured above
‘When they were driving out unfortunately the insurgents ambushed them and my son was shot,’ she told the news outlet.
‘I learnt on Friday night that people had been killed as they tried to leave the hotel. We didn’t hear who had been killed.
‘It was only on Saturday morning that I got news that unfortunately it was Adrian.’
According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, a British man named Philip Mawer has not been heard from since attempting to flee the town of Palma on Friday.
Mawer, believed to be in his 50s, is understood to have been with around 200 other expatriates at Palma’s Amarula Lodge hotel, from where a convoy of vehicles fled on Friday and ran into militant ambushes, the newspaper reported.
Mawer works for RA International, a Dubai-based firm that provided living quarters and other logistics for expatriate workers.
A statement from the firm said: ‘Our last communication with him was on Friday afternoon after which he was part of a convoy of vehicles that left the Amarula Lodge later that day.’
Hundreds of people fleeing the attack are arriving by boat in the port city of Pemba, a diplomat and an aid worker said.
Militants struck Palma, a logistics hub for international gas projects worth $60 billion, on Wednesday. The government has yet to re-establish control, the diplomat and a security source directly involved in the operations to secure Palma said.
Reuters could not independently verify the accounts, as most communications with Palma were cut on Wednesday.
Calls to officials at the foreign ministry and provincial government went unanswered or did not go through on Sunday.
The government has said it is working to restore order in Palma.
A British man named Philip Mawer, pictured above, has not been heard from since attempting to flee the town of Palma on Friday
The boats arriving in Pemba on Sunday carried both locals and foreigners, including employees from the gas projects, the aid official and diplomat said. One boat was carrying around 1,300 people, said the diplomat.
French energy group Total said on Saturday it was calling off a planned resumption of construction at its $20 billion development following the attack and would reduce its workforce to a ‘strict minimum’.
The company pulled out the majority of its workforce in January due to insecurity in Cabo Delgado province, which has been the target of an insurgency linked to Islamic State since 2017.
Government-contracted helicopters were searching for more survivors. Lionel Dyck, who runs a private security firm working with the government, said his helicopters had rescued at least 17 people on Sunday.
The number of people injured and killed in the four-day assault on Palma, or still unaccounted for, remained unclear. The town had previously been a refuge for people fleeing violence elsewhere in the province.