Dozens killed and missing after thousands flee insurgent attacks in Mozambique

  • Video report by ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo

Dozens of foreign workers, including Britons, are missing after scores were killed in a ferocious insurgent attack on a town in Northern Mozambique.

Extremist Islamist group Al-Shabaab were behind a deadly assault on the town of Palma which began on Wednesday.

The jihadist militia are linked to the Islamic state who also claim they were to blame for the military onslaught.

It happened hours after the French energy company Total announced work would resume on its large natural gas project at nearby Afungi, near the border with Tanzania in East Africa.

Attacks on the site in January prompted the firm to suspend work to extract gas from offshore.

Eyewitnesses say the streets were littered with bodies after rebels went on the rampage shooting indiscriminately.

The charity Human Rights Watch say some had been beheaded. Others had escaped into the dense tropical forest but scores of foreign workers were trapped in hotels.

Two hundred Mozambicans and foreign contractors from Britain, South Africa and France sheltered in The Hotel Amarula which became the focus of the rebel assault.

Many, including the contractors, managed to flee the hotel in a convoy of seventeen vehicles in an evacuation operation on Friday.

The cars made a dash for the beach in the hope they'd be rescued but came under heavy fire from the jihadist militia. Only seven vehicles made it.

A military spokesman confirmed that seven people had died in the ambush. The fate of most of the other foreign workers is still unclear.

South African Adrian Nel was shot while trying to escape with his father and brother. They had been in the country building flats for workers in the town.

Thousands of others packed into boats and made it the Island of Pemba on Sunday, 150 miles from Palma, according to police there.

Insurgent fighters have raided towns and villages in the region of Cabo Delgado where Palma is located, since 2017.

The United Nations say 670,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and a total of 2,600 people have been killed.

Now, the Mozambican army say they're fighting the rebels in several locations to regain control of Palma.

A Defence spokesman said on Sunday that forces were battling “to contain the criminal attacks of terrorists and restore normality in Palma.”  

Families have gathered at the airport in Pemba waiting for news of relatives but most communications with Palma and the surrounding area have been cut off by the insurgents.

Some residents managed to get messages out using satellite phones.

Survivors describe leaving all of their possessions to escape. Relatives of those suspected still to be in Palma told the media they were questioning whether their loved ones were alive or dead.

The UK's Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office said its embassy in Maputo was in "direct contact with authorities in Cabo Delgado to urgently seek further information on these reports".

James Duddridge, the UK's Minister for Africa tweeted: "The UK wholeheartedly condemns the appalling violence in Cabo Delgado. It must stop."