According to several sources contacted by CNN, heavy fighting continued until Saturday over the northern city of Palma, Mozambique, which was attacked by Islamist insurgents on Wednesday.
According to human rights groups, there are thousands after Wednesday’s attack fled Palma, while the fate of dozens of people who sought refuge in a local hotel remains unclear.
Witnesses reported seeing bodies on the streets after the insurgents believed to be Human Rights Watch said on Saturday that they belong to the terrorist group ISIS and attacked Palma from three directions.
The city is near a large liquefied natural gas project by the French company Total. The attack came hours after the Mozambican government and Total announced the resumption of operations on the huge Afungi project north of Palma, which had ceased operations since January after a series of insurgent attacks.
This by CNN Video received on Thursday shows helicopters flown by military contractors used by the government that flew over a hotel hut to secure an escape corridor for dozens of people who fled there during the attack.
Among the people The video from the hotel premises appeared to be at least 20 foreign workers.
In another video from CNN, a Mozambican who was also trapped in the hotel described the situation as « critical » and said, « We have no food, we only have water. «
In the video recorded on Thursday, he said: » We have been attacked since yesterday … 4 hours under crossfire.
« We don’t know how to get out of here. We are being evacuated, but we don’t know when, what time, how and by whom, « he added.
» The helicopters are circling the area of the Amarula Hotel to make sure the roads are clear to go to As you can hear, however, we do not know whether this will be possible. The situation is critical. We have no food. We only have water. « In the background, helicopters could be heard as he spoke.At least some people were evacuated in convoys overland on Friday as the helicopters circled over them. A Mozambican who stayed at the hotel described the situation in Palma as « total chaos ».
According to several reports, at least attacked a convoy trying to reach Pemba in the south. Portuguese news agency LUSA reported that seven people were killed without giving further details.
A company operating in the region, African Century Real Estate, said e s succeeded in evacuating 19 workers and four guests from a property southwest of Palma “under heavy fire” on Saturday morning. The company said it is continuing its efforts « to locate the remaining members of our team ».
« The village of Palma has remained without communication since the attacks began, so it is premature to make a real assessment of the situation, » it said Company.
The Portuguese Foreign Ministry confirmed that one of its nationals was injured in a rescue operation from the region, the Portuguese news agency LUSA reported on Saturday.
In a statement on Saturday, the South African government said « with great concern » that the South Africans were affected by the attacks. The diplomatic mission in the capital, Maputo, is being stepped up to identify and locate those affected.
A journalist working with CNN in Mozambique said at least some of the prisoners could reach the city of Pemba in a convoy on Friday.
Dewa Mavhinga, director for southern Africa at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said the militants « shot at civilians in their homes and on the streets in Palma as they tried to flee for their lives ».
HRW said it reached several civilians by phone before communication with the city was cut on Thursday.
It quoted a witness as saying, « People were running and shouting, » Al-Shabaab is here. .. It’s Al-Shabaab … They’re killing everyone. «
The insurgents are known locally as ‘Shabaab’ but have no ties to the Somali group of the same name. The full name of the group is Ahl al-Sunnah wa al Jamma’ah (ASWJ) and it officially changed last year affiliated to the self-proclaimed province of Central Africa of the Islamic State. Earlier this month the US identified the group as a terrorist organization under the name « ISIS Mozambique. » ,.
An audio recording that CNN had received on Thursday from someone at the hotel contained the sound of heavy gunshots.
The Mozambican Ministry of Defense announced on Thursday that an army operation to restore security in Palma was in the In progress but has not provided any further updates.
It is unknown if the insurgents are still in control of the city. On Friday, a high-level security source with direct knowledge of the events told CNN that the militants in Mozambique are likely still operating in the region.
The source said that fierce fighting between the insurgents and Mozambican forces and police had lasted for hours , with private contractors launching helicopter air strikes to force insurgent forces out of the city center.
The insurgents attacked military and police facilities and robbed and set fire to two banks in the city overnight on Wednesday, the source said.
Jasmine Opperman, a security analyst who writes a weekly summary of what happened in Cabo Delgado, said the attack had shown « careful planning » by the insurgents.
Even before the attack on Palma, the city was over the uncertainty on the way south on the road inaccessible, leading to food shortages in the region.
Alexandre Raymakers, Senior Africa Analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, told CNN that the attack on Palma was a « major blow to the government, especially after Total’s announcement, » and demonstrates its ability to Securing LNG projects that are vital to the country’s long-term financial prosperity are seriously in question. «
Raymakers said that » Total’s decision to resume construction is contingent on Maputo guaranteeing a 25-kilometer security area around the Afungi peninsula, which includes Palma. «
Last August This year, the ASWJ carried out a large-scale attack on the port of Mocimboa da Praia and continued to occupy the area despite government efforts to retake it.
ASWJ has left large parts of Mozambique’s northernmost province, Cabo Delgado, inaccessible and unsafe made as its attacks have grown in range and sophistication since 2017.
Raymakers says “The ASWJ’s ability, command and control to wage war, and general confidence, has grown tremendously over the past year. ”
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The fighting between the group and government forces has killed more than 1,500 civilians and displaced more than 600,000, according to HRW.
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