Mozambique jihadist attack survivors stranded around Palma

At least ten South Africans are still missing after their convoy was ambushed in Mozambique. 43 have now been accounted for. One South African was killed when insurgents attacked Palma in the north of the country last week. Dan Moyane spoke to veteran journalist, Joseph Hanlon for more on this. Courtesy #DStv403

PEMBA - Thousands of Palma residents remained stranded on Tuesday, hiding around the besieged northern Mozambique town and scrambling to escape the area overrun by violent jihadist militants last week, sources said.

Insurgents affiliated with the Islamic State group (IS) launched a raid on the coastal town last Wednesday, ransacking buildings and murdering and beheading civilians.

Dozens have been killed in what witnesses describe as a coordinated attack, just 10 kilometres from a multi-billion-dollar gas project led by France's Total. 

Shaken survivors have since streamed into the neighbouring town of Mueda and regional capital Pemba, where they arrived via boat, foot and plane.

READ: Mozambique Conflict: 43 South Africans accounted for

But sources told AFP thousands were still wandering around Palma, desperate to find refuge.

Total ferried around 1,400 people, including both gas and government workers, to Pemba on Sunday, but has since been accused of turning its back on desperate residents.

Only a few dozen other survivors have reached the regional capital, mainly on small fishing boats, raising concern among humanitarians on the ground.

"That's very little compared to the thousands that are reported stranded in Palma," said one aid worker who did not wish to be named.

READ: Besieged Mozambique town deserted as Islamic State group claims control

"We are worried that so far very few are coming."

She told AFP around 5,000 escapees had reportedly assembled close to a lighthouse on the peninsula.

"Those are probably not the only ones," she added.

Total said it has organised "emergency support", including food and water, for people arriving at its site.

READ: SA mother mourns son killed in Mozambique attack

The attack on Palma is the biggest escalation of an insurgency that has wreaked havoc across northern Mozambique since 2017, with jihadists raiding villages and towns with the aim of establishing an Islamic caliphate.

The United Nations said "sporadic clashes" were still reported from Palma on Tuesday morning.

"We expect that thousands more people are making their way by foot, boat and road to reach safer destinations," its humanitarian affairs branch said in a statement.

"They will require urgent assistance at their destinations."

Source
AFP

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