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In Mozambique, thousands of civilians flee jihadist violence

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                Thousands of people were trying by all means to flee northeastern Mozambique, in the grip of a massive jihadist attack since Wednesday that has left dozens of civilians dead.

                                    <p>Faced with a large-scale terrorist attack, thousands of civilians fled to northeastern Mozambique, the scene since Wednesday of a jihadist offensive that has killed dozens of people.

The Mozambican government confirmed on the evening of Sunday March 28 that at least seven people were killed in an ambush on Friday while trying to escape from a hotel where they had taken refuge.

And “dozens” of others were in the initial attack on Wednesday against the small port town of Palma, located just ten kilometers from a gas site run by the French group Total, a mega-project of $ 20 billion, supposed to be operational in 2024. Palma fell into the hands of these armed groups on Friday evening, after more than 48 hours of fighting.

“More than a hundred people are missing,” researcher Martin Ewi, from the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, told AFP, citing a “still very confused situation”.

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The jihadists, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State organization, and who have terrorized the predominantly Muslim province of Cabo Delgado, bordering Tanzania for more than three years, launched their surprise attack Wednesday afternoon on three simultaneous fronts, sparking panic for its 75,000 inhabitants. Witnesses told the NGO Human Rights Watch that they fired “all over the place at people and buildings”, leaving a trail of bodies in the streets.

Escape in forests, in boats or in cars

“Their actions resulted in the cowardly murder of dozens of defenseless people,” Colonel Omar Saranga, spokesman for the Defense Ministry, denounced during a press briefing.

The inhabitants, including many refugees who have already escaped jihadist violence in their villages, have resumed their flight. Some rushed towards the surrounding forests, others towards the beaches where they boarded boats. Still others left on foot or by car to the gas site. There, they knocked on the door of the ultra-secure perimeter on the Afungi peninsula for shelter.

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A boat carrying 1,400 people, “leaving the Afungi site” the night before, arrived Sunday in Pemba, the provincial capital about 200 kilometers away, a source participating in this operation told AFP. evacuation. Among them, non-essential personnel from the gas site, but above all residents of Palma who have come to take refuge there.

On the beaches of Pemba, canoes and traditional sailing boats, loaded with refugees, arrive from the coasts of Palma and Afungi, according to several sources. At the airport, scheduled flights have been suspended to make way for military operations, according to officials there.

Under siege 48 hours in a hotel in Palma

Caritas, a humanitarian organization present in the region, has confirmed the influx of refugees in Pemba. “Employees of companies from Palma in particular are arriving,” Manuel Nota, his manager, told AFP. “Evacuation operations are underway,” confirmed the regional director of Human Rights Watch, Dewa Mavhinga.

Among the 180 people who spent more than 48 hellish hours under siege in a hotel in Palma, located between the city and its airport, after fleeing the attack on Wednesday, several dozen remain missing.

Some 80 of them left on Friday in 17 military trucks, only seven of which were able to exit the conflict zone. No source could immediately specify what became of the people on board the other ten trucks. But an ambush against several of them left at least seven dead, the government confirmed. “Several people undoubtedly died trying to flee the Amarula hotel, when their convoy was attacked,” says Dewa Mavhinga.

Adrian Nel, a 40-year-old South African who worked for a company in Palma with his father and brother, is among the victims, his mother told AFP. Trying to flee after being besieged in the hotel, “they were ambushed. They shot, my son died,” says Meryl Nel. “There is nothing to describe how it feels.” “My son died on a violent and unnecessary day,” she cries.

With AFP


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