More than 5,000 people fleeing an attack by a group linked to ISIL (ISIS) made their way to safety elsewhere in northern Mozambique, while a small group of victims arrived by boat in neighbouring Tanzania.
Armed fighters raided the coastal northern Mozambican town of Palma on March 24, ransacking buildings and beheading residents as thousands fled into the surrounding forest.
A United Nations spokesman said so far 5,300 displaced people had been registered in different districts of Cabo Delgado province, home since 2017 to a simmering insurrection.
Residents with family in Palma anxiously scoured incoming survivors for familiar faces. They milled around the port’s barbed-wire walls and sat against nearby buildings.
“We don’t know if our relatives are on the boats that are coming or not. But we are here, we are not losing hope,” Muza Momadi told AFP news agency as she waited for her mother and brother.
Since Tuesday more than 300 victims of the attack arrived in provincial capital Pemba by plane and boat, a senior humanitarian official based in Mozambique told Reuters news agency.
A boat carrying another 1,000 people, including some injured, was expected to arrive in Pemba late on Wednesday after its departure from a gas project site near Palma was delayed, three people briefed on the rescue operation said.
Armed group fighters hit the coastal town of Palma, adjacent to gas projects worth $60bn, with a three-pronged attack last Wednesday. Fighting continued as recently as Tuesday, security sources involved in rescue efforts and the UN said.
Most communications in the town were cut and it is not possible to independently verify the accounts from Palma.