Suspected Islamist insurgents attacked a convoy of fleeing civilians, including foreign workers, as fighting continued in a northern Mozambique town that is near a number of gas projects, security and diplomatic sources said.
At least one person was killed and a number injured in Friday’s attack, according to the three sources and three organizations with employees inside a hotel where people have been taking refuge in the town of Palma.
Reuters could not independently verify the accounts. Most communications with Palma are down. Officials at Mozambique’s foreign ministry, defence ministry and provincial government did not immediately respond to calls or had their phones switched off on Saturday. The national police said they were evaluating the situation, without providing further details.
Mozambique’s government had said that security forces were working to restore order in Palma, which is adjacent to gas projects worth $60 billion led by oil majors including Total, after it came under a three-pronged attack on Wednesday.
Nearly 200 people had been sheltering in the Amarula Palma hotel during the attack, according to three diplomats and one of the organisations with people inside.
They included a Spanish resident and other foreigners who locked themselves in a protected room in the hotel, a Spanish diplomatic source told Reuters. Spain’s foreign ministry confirmed there had been a Spanish citizen in Palma who managed to flee the town.
Before the ambush, rescue efforts had been underway with at least 20 people flown to safety in helicopters, said Lional Dyck, who runs Dyck Advisory Group, a South African private security company that works with Mozambique’s government.
On Friday afternoon, some people attempted to escape in a convoy of vehicles but were ambushed just outside the hotel, according to Dyck, two diplomats and the organizations with people inside.
Dyck said his helicopters evacuated more than 20 survivors on Saturday.
SOME STILL MISSING
It was not immediately clear how many people, if any, remained in the hotel and how many were missing. Contacted via Facebook on Saturday, the hotel said it could not give any information.
South Africa’s foreign ministry said some of its citizens had been affected by attacks on foreign nationals on Friday. It did not elaborate.