Mozambique’s government has said dozens of civilians were killed in an attack this week on the northern town of Palma, including seven people whose convoy of vehicles was ambushed as they attempted to flee.
Omar Saranga, a spokesperson for the defence and security forces, told journalists on Sunday that hundreds of other people – locals and foreigners – were rescued from Palma, a logistics hub for international gas projects in Cabo Delgado province.
“A group of terrorists sneaked into … Palma and launched actions that resulted in the cowardly murder of dozens of defenceless people,” Saranga said.
The exact number of people wounded and killed, or still unaccounted for, remained unclear, while most communications with Palma have been cut off. The town of some 75,000 people had previously been a refuge for people fleeing growing insecurity and violence elsewhere in the province.
The assailants struck Palma on Wednesday, in a seemingly coordinated attack from several directions. Human Rights Watch said the attackers indiscriminately shot civilians in their homes and on the streets. Witnesses described bodies in the streets, some of them beheaded.
Many residents ran into the dense tropical forest surrounding the town to escape the violence, according to Mozambican news reports. But a few hundred foreign workers from South Africa, Britain and France clustered at hotels that quickly became targets for the rebel attacks.
An estimated 200 foreign workers were at Hotel Amarula. On Saturday, a group of them in 17 vehicles drove together to try to reach the beach, where they hoped to be rescued, but their convoy came under heavy fire, according to local reports.—Al Jazeera