At least 12 South African citizens are believed to be part of the Isis-linked group that has attacked the town of Palma in northern Mozambique. This has raised concerns among South African security experts, with many of them calling for SADC to intervene and counter the possibility of any terror attacks on South Africa.
At least one South African, Adrian Nel, has been killed in the insurgent attack on Palma.
Adrian Nel killed during an attack in Mozambique, mother shares account:
Militants struck the town of Palma, a logistics hub for international gas projects worth $60 billion, on Wednesday.
There are calls for helicopters that are able to carry large numbers of people to be sent to the area to extract civilians.
Many expats, including those from South Africa, work on the massive gas project near Palma.
Senior Training Coordinator at the Institute of Security Studies, Willem Els, says the insurgency in Mozambique poses a huge threat to South Africa, both politically and economically.
“The Hawks spokesperson a while back also admitted that there are at least 12 of our SA citizens fighting with the terrorists there. That gives you an indication that they are very active in their recruitment here in SA. So, they have their structures here and where they are supporting whatever is happening in Cabo Delgado. Unfortunately, it will have a spin-off in SA; not only on the political front, but also on the economic front as you can see lots of South Africans are working there.”
Institute of Security Studies concerned over growing insurgency in Mozambique:
Meanwhile, the CEO of a South African security company operating in northern Mozambique, Lionel Dyck, says helicopters that can transport many people are required to evacuate those trapped in the Palma region by insurgents.
He says they have brought 120 people to safety since last Wednesday’s attack.
Dyck says he has been surprised by the level of organisation and the types of weapons that are being used by the insurgents.
He says his Russian-made helicopter gunships are not suitable for extracting people from a conflict zone.
Situation in Palma remains volatile:
Fleeing civilians arrive in Pemba
Hundreds of people fleeing an attack by suspected militant insurgents are arriving by boat in the port city of Pemba, a diplomat and an aid worker said on Sunday.
The government has yet to re-establish control, the diplomat and a security source directly involved in the operations to secure Palma said.
Reuters could not independently verify the accounts, as most communications with Palma were cut on Wednesday. The defence ministry declined to give any information ahead of a news conference expected later on Sunday.
Calls to officials at the foreign ministry and provincial government went unanswered or did not go through on Sunday.
The government has said it is working to restore order in Palma.
The boats arriving in Pemba on Sunday carried both locals and foreigners, including employees from the gas projects, the aid official and diplomat said. One boat was carrying around1 300 people, said the diplomat.
French energy group Total said on Saturday it was calling off a planned resumption of construction at its $20 billion development following the attack and would reduce its workforce to a “strict minimum.” The company pulled out the majority of its workforce in January due to insecurity in Cabo Delgado province, which has been the target of an insurgency linked to Islamic State since 2017.
Witnesses have described bodies in the streets of Palma, some of them beheaded.
On Friday, militants ambushed a convoy of people, including foreign workers, attempting to escape a hotel.
Nel’s mother, Meryl Knox, told Reuters that her son died in the attack. Her husband and another son hid with his body in the bush until the following morning when they were able to make it to safety in Pemba, she said. She did not have further details.
Government-contracted helicopters were searching for more survivors. Dyck, who runs a private security firm working with the government, said his helicopters had rescued at least 17 people on Sunday.
The number of people injured and killed in the four-day assault on Palma, or still unaccounted for, remained unclear. The town had previously been a refuge for people fleeing violence elsewhere in the province.
– Additional reporting by Reuters.
South Africa reinforcing its mission in Mozambique in the wake of attacks there: