‘Running for my life’: Mozambique attack survivors speak of horror – tech2.org

‘Running for my life’: Mozambique attack survivors speak of horror


PEMBA (Reuters) -Luisa José, a 52-year-old mother of five, says she came face to face with insurgents linked to the Islamic State when they attacked the central gas city of Palma in northern Mozambique 10 days ago.

Fato Abdula Ali, who gave birth while fleeing an attack claimed by insurgents linked to the Islamic State in the city of Palma, sits with her son in a hotel in Pemba, Mozambique, on April 3, 2021. REUTERS / Emidio Jozine

“I was running for my life … they were coming from all the streets,” he told Reuters from a stadium in the port city of Pemba that is home to some of the thousands who fled the violence.

“I saw them with bazookas. They wore uniforms with red scarves … tied around their heads ”.

José said the militants quickly invaded his hometown of Palma, along with huge gas projects worth $ 60 billion.

Aid workers believe tens of thousands of people fled the assault, which began on March 24. However, only 9,900 of the displaced had been registered in Pemba and other parts of Cabo Delgado province, according to the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.

Many may still be hiding in the surrounding forest, said the international aid group Médecins Sans Frontieres, and those who emerged have reported seeing the bodies of others who died of starvation or dehydration along the way.

Some were also killed by crocodiles or perished in deep mud, according to a contractor whose employee witnessed both.

LEFT BEHIND

Most communications with Palma were cut off when the attack began, and Reuters has not been able to independently verify eyewitness accounts.

A spokesman for Mozambique’s security and defense forces declined to comment on Saturday, while calls to the national police went unanswered.

The Cabo Delgado province, where Palma is located, has been home since 2017 to a latent Islamist insurgency now linked to the Islamic State. Clashes between militants and government forces around Palma continued until Friday, security sources told Reuters.

South Africa said on Saturday that Mozambique’s neighbors would meet next week to discuss the insurgency.

The Mozambican government has said dozens of people were killed in the Palma attack, but the full scale of the casualties and displacement remains unclear.

Fato Abdula Ali, 29, said she was separated from her husband and three children amid the chaos. At nine months pregnant, she was unable to keep up with the other residents as they escaped and gave birth to their son alone in the forest. He cut the baby’s umbilical cord with a tree branch, he said.

The next day, she said, she stripped off her blood-soaked clothing and found another group of people who took turns taking her to safety.

“My whole body hurts,” he told Reuters at a hotel in Pemba.

Luisa José said she spent nearly five days in the bush, eating bitter cassava tubers and drinking from puddles of cloudy water before arriving in Quitunda, a town for people relocated by gas megaprojects led by major oil companies, including the French one. Total.

From there, she says, she was evacuated by Total but had to leave more than six family members behind, including her husband and a daughter, because there was no space in the boat.

Total withdrew its entire remaining workforce from the project site near Palma on Friday, two sources with direct knowledge of the site’s operations told Reuters, leaving it to the military. Total declined to comment.

José has not heard from his family members since he left them behind. They are among the thousands believed to be stranded in Quitunda, according to humanitarian workers and diplomats.

“You are safe? Do they have shelter? Will they return? I don’t know, ”he said.

Report of Emidio Jozine in Pemba; Additional reports and writings of Emma Rumney; Editing by Alexandra Zavis and Ros Russell

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