Thousands of individuals have fled Palma after the assault on Wednesday, based on human rights teams, whereas the destiny of dozens of people that had taken refuge in a neighborhood resort stays unclear.
Video from Thursday obtained by CNN exhibits helicopters flown by army contractors deployed by the federal government passing over a resort lodge an obvious effort to safe an escape hall for dozens of people that had fled there because the assault unfolded.
Among the individuals seen within the video from the resort compound, not less than 20 gave the impression to be overseas employees.
In one other video obtained by a CNN, a Mozambican who was additionally trapped within the resort described the scenario as “critical,” saying “we don’t have food, we only have water.”
In the video recorded Thursday, he stated: “We have been under attack since yesterday … We’ve been under cross-fire for 24 hours.
“We do not understand how we’ll get out of right here. We’re going to be evacuated however we do not know when, at what time, how and by whom,” he added.
“The helicopters are circling the world of the Amarula Hotel to make sure that the roads are free to get to the seashore however as you may hear, we do not know if this might be doable. The scenario is vital. We do not have meals. We solely have water.” Helicopters could be heard in the background as he spoke.
Unknown if insurgents still control Palma
At least some people were evacuated by land on Friday in convoys as the helicopters circled above. One Mozambican who had been at the hotel described the situation in Palma as “full chaos.”
According to multiple reports, at least one convoy was attacked as it tried to reach Pemba to the south. The Portuguese news agency LUSA reported that seven people were killed, without providing further details.
One company operating in the area, African Century Real Estate, said it had managed to evacuate 19 workers and four guests from a property southwest of Palma on Saturday morning “underneath heavy hearth.” The company said it was continuing efforts to “find the remaining members of our crew.”
“The village of Palma stays with out communications because the starting of the assaults, so it’s untimely to make an actual evaluation of the scenario,” the company said.
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 Saturday, the South African government said it noted “with grave concern” that South Africans were affected by the attacks. It said its diplomatic mission in the capital, Maputo, was being reinforced to help identify and locate those affected.
A journalist working with CNN in Mozambique said at least some of those trapped were able to reach the town of Pemba in a convoy on Friday.
Dewa Mavhinga, southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), stated the militants had “fired on civilians of their properties and on the streets in Palma, as they tried to flee for his or her lives.”
HRW said it reached several civilians by phone before communications with the town were cut on Thursday.
It quoted one witness as saying that “People have been working and shouting ‘Al-Shabaab is right here … It’s Al-Shabaab … They’re killing all people.”
The insurgents are known locally as “Shabaab” but have no links 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 formally joined the Islamic State’s self-declared Central Africa Province last year. Earlier this month, the US designated the group a terror organization under the name “ISIS-Mozambique.”
Two hotel workers told HRW that armed men had fired at people and buildings, including the hotel.
An audio recording received by CNN from someone at the hotel on Thursday included the sound of heavy gunfire.
Mozambique’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday that an army operation to restore security in Palma was underway but has provided no further updates.
‘Meticulous planning’ by insurgents
It’s unknown if the insurgents still control the town. On Friday, a senior security source with direct knowledge of the events told CNN that the militants in Mozambique were likely still operating in the area.
The source said that fierce fighting between the insurgents and Mozambican forces and police lasted for hours, with private contractors providing helicopter air engagement to push insurgent forces out of the center of town.
The insurgents attacked military and police installations and robbed two banks in the town overnight Wednesday and set them alight, said the source.
Jasmine Opperman, a security analyst who writes a weekly digest of events in Cabo Delgado said the attack had demonstrated “meticulous planning” by the insurgents.
Even before the assault on Palma, the town was inaccessible by road because of insecurity along the route south, leading to food shortages in the area.
Alexandre Raymakers, Senior Africa Analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, told CNN that the assault on Palma was a “main setback for the federal government, particularly after Total announcement, and significantly brings into query their means to safe LNG tasks important for the nation’s long run monetary prosperity.”
Raymakers said that “Total’s determination to renew development was contingent on Maputo guaranteeing a 25 kilometer safety perimeter across the Afungi peninsula, which would come with Palma.”
In August last year, ASWJ staged a large-scale assault on the port of Mocimboa da Praia, and continue to occupy the area despite government efforts to retake it.
ASWJ has made large parts of Mozambique’s most northern province, Cabo Delgado, inaccessible and insecure as its attacks have grown in reach and sophistication since 2017.
Raymakers says that “ASWJ’s war-fighting capability, command and management, and general confidence has grown enormously within the final yr. “
The combating between the group and authorities forces has left greater than 1,500 civilians useless and displaced greater than 600,000, based on HRW.
Tim Lister reported from Spain, Estacio Valoi reported from Maputo, Mozambique and Isa Soares reported from London. David McKenzie contributed reporting.