Attacks that killed 55 people in the northern Mozambique town of Palma, an area worth billions of dollars to gas companies, have reportedly been claimed by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) via its Amaq news agency.
The government confirmed dozens of fatalities in the coastal town of 75,000 people near the Tanzanian border on Sunday, after as many as 100 IS-linked al-Shabab militants besieged Palma on March 24.
Militants fired indiscriminately at people and buildings during their assault, according to Human Rights Watch.
Mozambique’s Defense Ministry said an army operation had been launched, but IS on Monday claimed to have taken over Palma after days of battling the security forces.
Foreign workers employed nearby at French Total’s multi-billion-dollar LNG terminal construction project were among those who were forced to seek refuge in a hotel and at a gas plant amid the attacks.
One British and one South African citizen are reported to be among the dead.
Between 6,000 and 10,000 people are now waiting to be evacuated, according to AFP.
Some 1,400 people, the majority of them Total staff, were taken by boat to the town of Pemba, 250 kilometers south of Palma, on Sunday.
Thousands more are reported to be trapped at a gas plant on the Afungi Peninsula, 10 kilometers from Palma, with some expected to be evacuated by smaller boats on Monday.
Palma, located in the province of Cabo Delgado, has been targeted in an Islamist insurgency since 2017, during which time al-Shabab militants have seized whole towns.
More than 2,600 people have been killed in the conflict, half of whom are civilians, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).
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