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Islamist militants ‘ambush workers fleeing hotel’


Militants have been battling the Mozambican army around Palma for days

Islamist militants have ambushed a convoy that was trying to rescue civilians from a hotel amid fighting in northern Mozambique, reports say.

Details are unclear, but some of those fleeing the hotel in the town of Palma have been killed, security sources and survivors said.

The evacuees included foreign gas workers.

Palma is close to a huge natural gas project run by international oil firms including the French giant, Total.

Northern Mozambique has been torn by an insurgency since 2017.

Militants linked to the Islamic State (IS) group are behind the conflict in the predominantly Muslim region of Cabo Delgado. The fighting has left more than 2,500 people dead and 700,000 displaced.

In the latest violence, insurgents launched a surprise assault on Palma on Wednesday, attacking shops, banks and a military barracks.

Hundreds of people fled the fighting and about 180 foreign and local gas workers were reportedly trapped in the Amarula Palma hotel for days.

Lionel Dyck, who runs a South African private security company that works with the Mozambique government, said at least 20 people were initially flown to safety in helicopters.

Some tried to escape in a convoy of vehicles on Friday, but were ambushed outside the hotel, Reuters news agency quoted Mr Dyck as saying.

Accounts of the casualties differ. Local media said at least seven workers died in the ambush. Sources quoted by Reuters said at least one person was killed.

The situation in Palma on Saturday was also unclear. Some reports said the town had fallen to the militants but there was no official confirmation of this.

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