Several people are believed to have died after an attack in Palma near a liquefied natural gas site in the province of Cabo Delgado.
More than 180 people, including foreign workers, are trapped in a hotel in a town in northern Mozambique under siege for three days by fighters linked to the ISIS group (ISIS), workers and security sources said on Friday.
Several people have died, according to witnesses and an advocacy group, after the Palma attack near a liquefied natural gas (LNG) site in the province of Cabo Delgado.
French oil giant Total is the main investor in the $ 20 billion project – Africa’s largest – with six other international companies, including ExxonMobil, involved in the region.
Fighters linked to ISIL launched a raid on the coastal town on Wednesday afternoon, forcing terrified residents to flee into the surrounding forest as LNG and officials sought refuge at the Amarula Palma hotel.
“Almost the whole city has been destroyed. Many people died, ”said a worker at the LNG site on the phone Friday evening after being evacuated to Afungi.
He did not give details of the victims or their nationalities.
“As residents fled into the bush, LNG company workers, including foreigners, took refuge at the Amarula Hotel where they wait to be rescued,” he said, asking not to be named.
“ Bodies in the streets ”
Human Rights Watch said the attackers are linked to a group known locally as al-Shabab, which has no known direct connection to the Somali armed group with a similar name.
“Several witnesses told Human Rights Watch that they saw bodies in the streets and residents fleeing after al-Shabab fighters indiscriminately fired at people and buildings,” the group said on Friday. defense of rights in a press release.
South African news site News24 reported that a South African national had died in the attack.
Another worker at a company outsourced to Total said helicopters flew over the hotel earlier on Friday in an attempt to find “a corridor to save the approximately 180 people trapped in the hotel.”
“But until nightfall, many people remained at the scene as the militants tried to advance towards the hotel,” he said.
In a short, unverified video clip shared on social media, an unidentified man filmed the hotel lobby showing several people moving around the patio.
With the hum of a chopper in the background, he described the situation in Palma as “critical”.
“We don’t know if we’ll be saved,” he said, adding that the hotel was running out of food but there was still water.
The Mozambican government confirmed the attack on the city on Thursday and said the soldiers had launched an offensive to expel fighters from the city, the hub of the giant gas project.
The new round of attacks began on Wednesday hours after Total announced a gradual resumption of work on the LNG project, which had been hampered by continuing rebellion in the region.
Armed fighters affiliated with ISIL attacked villages and towns in the province, causing nearly 700,000 to flee their homes.
The violence has claimed at least 2,600 lives, half of whom are civilians, according to the U.S. data collection agency Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED).
In a statement released on Friday, the US embassy in Maputo condemned the attack on Palma, pledging to “work with the government of Mozambique to fight violent extremism.”