A ship carrying 1,200 survivors of a deadly attack by insurgents linked to the Islamic State in northern Mozambique reached safety in the port of Pemba, some of them crying upon arrival after spending days hiding in the bush.
Humanitarian workers were at the port to feed those disembarking from the ferry, while police and soldiers controlled crowds of people excited to see relatives rescued during the attack that began last week in Palma, said a reporter from Reuters at the port.
Many people were believed to have dispersed into dense forest or tried to escape by boat, aid workers said.
An emotional Mariamo Tagir, who arrived on the ferry, told Reuters TV that she had spent seven days in the bush, crying every day. “I don’t know where my son is. It is very painful, ”Tagir said. “The situation is really bad, many deaths.”
Islamist insurgents have been increasingly active in the surrounding Cabo Delgado province since 2017, although it is unclear if they have a unified goal or what they are fighting for.
The district where Palma is located is adjacent to natural gas projects worth (£ 43bn) $ 60bn. It is home to some 110,000 people, according to United Nations estimates, of whom more than 40,000 sought refuge there after fleeing attacks elsewhere.
The Mozambican government has confirmed dozens of deaths in Palma, including at least seven when militants ambushed vehicles trying to escape from the Amarula hotel. A South African is confirmed to have died as a result.
British national Philip Mawer, who has been missing since the attack, was also likely killed in the incident, his employer RA International said in a statement on behalf of his family, adding that a body matching his description was recovered but not known. formally identified. “The family is devastated by the loss,” the statement said.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “We are deeply concerned by this latest development. We are in close contact with the family and are working with the Mozambican government and the Met police to confirm further details.
“We support the people of Mozambique against the threat of terrorism and we are working with the government to restore peace and stability.”
Military operations were underway on Wednesday, according to footage filmed by local news station TVM, showing soldiers carrying rocket-propelled grenades and weapons into the area, as well as reinforcements arriving by helicopter.
“I cannot say now that we have the whole town under control,” said army spokesman Chongo Vidigal in the images, adding that, however, the security forces did have a presence in the port area.
Reuters has not been able to independently verify the city’s accounts. Most of the media was cut off after the attack began on March 24. Telephone calls to the Mozambican government and security officials went unanswered on Thursday.
Aid groups believe the attack has displaced tens of thousands of people. Hundreds, including many foreign workers, have been evacuated by air.
As of Wednesday afternoon, a tracker for the UN migration agency showed that more than 8,100 people had been displaced, nearly half of them children. About 20% had arrived in Pemba, the provincial capital of Cabo Delgado, and others had shown up in the districts of Mueda, Montepuez and Nangade in other parts of the province. However, the full scale of victims and displacements remains unclear.
The ferry, organized by the French energy company Total in coordination with the Mozambican government and the UN, docked around 8 am local time in Pemba.
Total, which has a gas project on the Afungi peninsula near Palma, said in a statement that there were almost 1,200 passengers on board, mainly women and children.
A humanitarian official said the government was screening those arriving in Pemba to prevent infiltration by armed groups.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism