Efforts to evacuate people trapped after an attack by rebel fighters in Palma, Mozambique, are continuing despite the tense situation.
Rebel fighters attacked the town of Palma in Cabo Delgado Province near the border with Tanzania on Wednesday, killing dozens and injuring scores of others. Several people are still unaccounted for.
“We have rescued 120 people who had run away and hidden in camps,” Lionel Dyck, CEO of Dyck Advisory Group, which was contracted to help the Mozambican government and gas companies fight rebels there, told South African broadcaster Sabc.
Dyck said his group also managed to escort numerous people, who could not board their helicopters, to places of safety.
“There are numerous dead bodies lying on the streets, some decapitated. We are currently not counting bodies but focusing on the living,” he said, adding that the situation in the area is still quite chaotic.
Omar Saranga, spokesperson for the Mozambique Defence and Security Forces, confirmed in a statement on Sunday that dozens of people, including locals and foreigners, had been killed.
The government also said “dozens of defenceless people” were killed in the coordinated raid that saw the attackers’ fire indiscriminately at people and buildings in the coastal town.
Among the victims were seven people caught in an ambush during an operation to evacuate them from a hotel where they had fled to in order to escape Wednesday’s attack.
The armed group, locally known as al-Shabab but with no established links to the rebel group in Somalia, has wreaked havoc in northern Mozambique since late 2017, killing hundreds, displacing communities and capturing towns.
It has been able to exploit the extreme poverty and unemployment in the area to recruit in large numbers.
Dyck said the fighters were previously a group of “bandits” until they claimed affiliation to Isil and have since become a serious threat.
“This was a very well planned and coordinated attack,” the retired soldier said, adding that the group even has heavy weaponry now.
On Monday, South Africa’s ambassador to Mozambique said his country was in talks with the Southern African Development Community, a regional block of 15 countries, to seek solutions to end the violence in Mozambique.—Al Jazeera
A vibrant writer who gives a great insight on hot topics and issues