Mozambique: Insurgents seize control of town
Nick Alexander, who has dual British-South African citizenship, was rescued yesterday after crawling through the bush for two nights. Mr Alexander had been one of hundreds of expats working as a contractor on a natural gas site six miles from , where he had been building camps for staff when chaos erupted.
The convoy in which he had been travelling had been ambushed after fleeing a hotel in Palma, with reports suggesting at least one man, a passenger in one of the vehicles, had been shot dead.
His daughter Jayde, 29, speaking from her home in Johannesburg, told The Times: “He saw the commotion with the ambush ahead and got out.
“There was a government vehicle with an AK47 in it, so he broke in, got it and shot dead two al-Shabaabs militants.
“He and two others from the car then ran to hide into the bushes with the gun.
“They were literally crawling through the bush until they were rescued.”
At least one person was killed and a number injured were killed as they fled the Amarula Lodge after two days of gunfire close to the site of the £14billion major gas project, according to the three sources and three organisations with employees inside the hotel.
Some reports suggested in total, seven people died as they fled the complex.
The national police said they were evaluating the situation without providing further details, but Omar Saranga, the country’s defence and security spokesman, today said “dozens” have been killed, adding that the government and Islamist militants were continuing to battle it out.
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Mozambique’s government had said that security forces were working to restore order in Palma, which is adjacent to gas projects worth $60 billion led by oil majors including Total, after it came under a three-pronged attack on Wednesday.
Nearly 200 people had been sheltering in the Amarula.
Philip Mawer, a caterer from Somerset who had been working at the hotel, is one of a number of expats who remain missing.
Rescue efforts had been underway with at least 20 people flown to safety in helicopters before the ambush, said Lional Dyck, who runs Dyck Advisory Group, a South African private security company that works with Mozambique’s government.
On Friday afternoon, some people attempted to escape in a convoy of vehicles but were ambushed just outside the hotel, according to Dyck, two diplomats and the organizations with people inside.
Dyck said his helicopters evacuated more than 20 people on Saturday.
It was not immediately clear how many people, if any, remained in the hotel and how many were missing.
Cindy Cooke, a South African whose 21-year-old stepson Francois van Niekerk is in Palma, was frantically trying to get information.
His family had not heard from him since the attack started on Wednesday, though rescuers had been to his location on Saturday and he was not there, she said.
She said: “It’s scary. Being there is no joke. The insurgents are ruthless, just ruthless.”
Portugal’s foreign ministry said one of its nationals had been injured in the attack on Palma but did not specify the circumstances. The person had since been rescued, and its embassy in Maputo was working to identify other Portuguese nationals who needed support, the ministry said in an email.
Contacted via Facebook on Saturday, the hotel said it could not give any information.
The province of Cabo Delgado, where Palma is located, has been the target of a simmering Islamist insurgency since 2017.
Wednesday’s attack on Palma, a logistics hub and used as a base for multiple international firms looking to cash in on one of the biggest gas finds in a decade, came just hours after Total announced the resumption of works at its site after halting them due to security issues.
(More to follow)