Families waited at a Mozambican port on Sunday as boats arrived carrying people who had fled the ongoing violence from a strategic town in…

Mozambique

Mozambican authorities vow to ensure normalcy to Palma after deadly attacks

Families waited at a Mozambican port on Sunday as boats arrived carrying people who had fled the ongoing violence from a strategic town in the country's north.

Rebels fought Sunday for the fifth straight day to control the town of Palma, as reports came in that dozens of civilians had been killed and bodies were littering the streets.

The fate of scores of foreign workers was also unknown.

Many Palma residents ran into the dense tropical forest surrounding the town to escape the violence, according to Mozambican news reports.

But a few hundred foreign workers from South Africa, Britain and France clustered at hotels that quickly became targets for the rebel attacks.

The town is where many contractors have been working for a multi-billion-dollar liquified natural gas project by the French energy company Total.

A teary-eyed Jose Abebe pleaded with journalists to help find his son, a worker at the Amarula hotel which was a reported target of the violent attacks.

An estimated 200 foreign workers were at the Hotel Amarula.

On Saturday a band of them in 17 vehicles drove together to try to reach the beach where they hoped to be rescued.

The convoy came under heavy fire and only 7 vehicles reached the beach and several people in even those vehicles had been killed, according to local reports and messages sent by survivors.

Abebe explained he and his family had previously fled violence in the country after rebel groups attacked the town of Macomia last year.

He was among dozens at Pemba port on Sunday hoping to see their loved ones coming in on one of the boats that began arriving at the capital of Cabo Delgado province.

Portuguese news agency LUSA reported that a first ship arrived to Pemba on Sunday morning, carrying around 1,000 people, many of them workers from French company Total.

The rescued were then to be transported via buses to local shelters.

Total has told LUSA the operation is ongoing without any setbacks.

The battle for Palma highlights the military and humanitarian crisis in this Southern African nation on the Indian Ocean.

The three-year insurgency of the rebels, who are primarily disaffected young Muslim men, in the northern Cabo Delgado province has taken more than 2,600 lives and displaced an estimated 670,000 people, according to the U.N.

Mozambique's government is expected to issue an update on the battle for Palma later on Sunday.

Mozambique's rebels already hold the port town of Mocimboa da Praia, 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Palma, which they captured in August.

The insurgents are known locally as al-Shabab, although they do not have any known connection to Somalia's jihadist rebels of that name.

The rebels have been active in Cabo Delgado province since 2017 but their attacks became much more frequent and deadly in the past year.

A Human Rights Watch representative in Mozambique condemned fighting over the strategic town of Palma which entered into its fifth day on Sunday.

According to reports from the region dozens of civilians have been killed and bodies were littering the streets of Palma as rebels continued to fight to control the northern town.

The fate of scores of foreign workers was also unknown.

Zenaida Machado, a representative in the country for Human Rights Watch, called on the Mozambican security forces to protect people fleeing the violence and help them find shelter.

"It's also important that the government move swiftly to restore order and security so that people can go back to their houses," she added.

The battle for Palma highlights the military and humanitarian crisis in this Southern African nation on the Indian Ocean.

The three-year insurgency of the rebels, who are primarily disaffected young Muslim men, in the northern Cabo Delgado province has taken more than 2,600 lives and displaced an estimated 670,000 people, according to the U.N.

Mozambique's government is expected to issue an update on the battle for Palma later Sunday.

Some of the dead had been beheaded, Human Rights Watch said.

An attempt by expatriate workers to flee to safety came under heavy fire, causing many deaths, according to local reports.

Most communications with Palma and the surrounding area have been cut off by the insurgents, although some in the besieged town got messages out using satellite phones.

The town is where many contractors have been working for a multi-billion-dollar liquified natural gas project by the French energy company Total.

Many Palma residents ran into the dense tropical forest surrounding the town to escape the violence, according to Mozambican news reports.

But a few hundred foreign workers from South Africa, Britain and France clustered at hotels that quickly became targets for the rebel attacks.

The attacks in Palma started just hours after Total announced that it would resume work outside the town on its natural gas project, near Mozambique's northeastern border with Tanzania.

Mozambique's rebels already hold the port town of Mocimboa da Praia, 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Palma, which they captured in August.

Mozambique's insurgents are known locally as al-Shabab, although they do not have any known connection to Somalia's jihadist rebels of that name.

The rebels have been active in Cabo Delgado province since 2017 but their attacks became much more frequent and deadly in the past year.

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