President Cyril Ramaphosa has been meeting with the security cluster amid reports that South Africans are among those killed in fighting around the gas hub town of Palma in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province.

Suspected ISIS militants attacked fleeing civilians and took over Palma.   

The R1 trillion liquid gas project in the town is run by international oil companies including the French firm Total.  

A South African woman who works in Palma says her son is missing. “He’s missing. Choppers could not go and rescue him because they were shooting at the choppers from the ground. They tried today again, they landed at the site where they thought he would be. He’s no longer there. He’s still missing. He’s got no war experience, no fighting experience. So, the worst fear is you don’t know where they are, you don’t know if he safe. Is he alive? Has he been taken hostage? 

Many South Africans as well as people from other countries are employed at the massive gas facility. The woman, who wants to remain anonymous, says she has received information that there was an attempt to escape the attacking insurgents. 

“This afternoon we got word that the rescue operation. The evacuation had to be stopped because they were shooting at the helicopters again. There was no help from the government. They were surrounded and they decided to make a run for it because they could not be evacuated. The chopper could not come anywhere close to them. So, they decided to make a run for it, they got into vehicles. It’s said that there were 17 vehicles and only seven went through the ambush. 

The Institute of Security Studies has raised concerns over the growing insurgency in northern Mozambique. Liesel Louw Vaudran is a senior researcher at the ISS. She says they have been worried since the attacks began some three years ago:

A number of South Africans appear to have escaped an ambush, apparently by ISIS-linked fighters in Palma.

Reuters quotes security and diplomatic sources as saying at least one person was killed during the escape and a number were wounded.  

Mozambique’s government had said that security forces were working to restore order in Palma, which is adjacent to gas projects worth close to R1 trillion after it came under a three-pronged attack on Wednesday.  

Many South Africans as well as people from other countries are employed at the massive gas facility.

Doctors Without Borders’ Head of Mission in Mozambique, Alain Kassa:

SOME STILL MISSING

It was not immediately clear how many people, if any, remained in the hotel and how many were missing. Contacted via Facebook on Saturday, the hotel said it could not give any information.

South Africa’s foreign ministry said some of its citizens had been affected by attacks on foreign nationals on Friday. It did not elaborate.

Cindy Cooke, a South African whose 21-year-old stepson Francois van Niekerk is in Palma, was frantically trying to get information.

His family had not heard from him since Wednesday, though rescuers had been to his location on Saturday and he was not there, she said.

“It’s scary. Being there is no joke. They (the insurgents) are ruthless, just ruthless,” she said.

Portugal’s foreign ministry said one of its nationals had been injured in the attack on Palma but did not specify the circumstances. The person had since been rescued, and its embassy in Maputo was working to identify other Portuguese nationals who needed support, the ministry said in an email.

New York-based Human Rights Watch spoke to seven people in the town before communications were cut on Wednesday. They described people fleeing as gunshots rang out, bodies in the streets and insurgents firing at both people and buildings, the group said in a statement.

The province of Cabo Delgado, where Palma is located, has been the target of a simmering militant insurgency since 2017. -Additional reporting by Reuters