More than 180 people, including expatriate workers, have been trapped inside a hotel in a northern Mozambique town under attack by insurgents for three days.
The military was trying on Friday to airlift the workers to safety from Palma town which is situated near the multibillion-dollar gas site on the Afungi peninsula in Cabo Delgado province, according to the trapped workers.
Jihadist militants launched their attack on the coastal town on Wednesday afternoon, forcing terrified residents to flee into surrounding forest and LNG workers to seek refugee at the Amarula hotel.
The country’s government said soldiers had launched an offensive to repel the extremist fighters from the town, the hub of huge gas project.
Almost the entire town was destroyed. Many people are dead,” said a worker on the LNG site speaking on the phone Friday evening after he was rescued to Afungi. He did not give details of the casualties nor their nationalities. “As locals fled to the bush, workers from LNG companies, including foreigners, took refuge in Hotel Amarula where they are waiting to be rescued,” he said, asking not to be named.
Another worker from a company subcontracted by the energy firm Total said helicopters flew over the hotel earlier on Friday trying to find “a corridor to rescue the approximately 180 people trapped in the hotel”. “But until nightfall many people remained on the premises while militants tried to advance towards the hotel,” he said.
In an unverified short video clip shared on social media, an unidentified man filmed the hotel lobby showing several people milling around the patio. The buzzing of a chopper in the background, he described the situation Palma as “critical”. “We don’t know if we will be rescued,” he said, adding the hotel had run out of food, but still had water.
Militants affiliated with the Islamic State group have raided villages and towns across the province, causing nearly 700,000 to flee their homes. The violence has killed at least 2,600 people, half of them civilians, according to the US-based data collecting agency Armed Conflict Location and Event Data.