A boat carrying 1,200 survivors after a deadly attack by Islamic State rebels in northern Mozambique reached security in the port of Pemba on Thursday, some of them crying on arrival after spending days hiding in the bush.
Aid workers were in the cramped harbor to provide food for those disembarking from the green and white ferry, while police and soldiers retained control of the crowds happy to see relatives rescued during the attack that began last week in Palma, a Reuters reporter at the port sa.
Many were believed to have spread in dense forest or to have 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 and cried every day.
“I do not know where my son is. It is very painful, says Tagir. “The situation is really bad, many dead.”
Islamist uprisings have been increasingly active in the surrounding province of Cabo Delgado since 2017, although it is unclear whether they have a single goal or what they are specifically fighting for.
The district where Palma is located is adjacent to natural gas projects worth $ 60 billion. It is home to about 110,000 people, according to UN estimates, of which 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 killed when militants ambushed vehicles trying to escape from the Amarula Hotel. A South African is confirmed to have died as a result.
British citizen 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 that matched his description had been restored but not formally identified.
“The family is devastated by the loss,” the statement said.
Military operations were underway on Wednesday, according to photos taken by the local news station TVM, which showed soldiers carrying rocket-propelled grenades and weapons in the area, as well as reinforcements who arrived by helicopter.
“I can not say that we have the whole village under control right now,” Army spokesman Chongo Vidigal said in the film, adding that security forces had a presence in the port area.
However, Portugal was reportedly ready to send 60 troops to train armed forces in Cabo Delgado.
Reuters has not been able to independently verify the accounts from the city. Most means of communication were suspended after the attack began on March 24. Phone 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 Thursday afternoon, a UN migration tracker showed that more than 9,100 people had been displaced, almost half of them children. About 20% had arrived in Pemba, while others showed up in the districts of Mueda, Montepuez and Nangade in Cabo Delgado.
Shift due to the Palma attacks from Thursday, April 1, 2021 © International Organization for Migration
However, the full extent of the accidents and the movement is still unclear.
The ferry – organized by French Energy Major Total in coordination with the Mozambican government and the UN – arrived around 8 am local time (0600 GMT) in Pemba, the provincial capital of Cabo Delgado.
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 investigating those who arrived in Pemba to prevent the infiltration of armed groups.
( Jowharwith REUTERS)