Islamist militants have attacked a convoy seeking to bring foreign workers to safety following an attack on a town in northern Mozambique.
Hundreds of militants stormed the town of Palma on Wednesday in a surprise attack, and laid siege to a hotel where foreign workers and visitors were hiding after attacking shops, banks and a military barracks.
Foreign contractors are working on a major natural gas project run by the French company Total near the town of Palma. Up to 200 visitors from Britain, France and South Africia left the Hotel Amarula in a convoy of 17 vehicles attempting to reach the coast.
The convoy was ambushed twice by the Islamist gunmen, Omar Saranga, spokesman for the Mozambique Defense and Security Forces, said.
Only seven vehicles reached safety – and seven people in those vehicles were killed with others reported as being injured. Up to 60 other people, believed to be mostly foreign nationals, were in the 10 vehicles still missing, and it is believed that they all died in the attack.
Human Rights Watch said that witnesses described seeing “bodies on the streets and residents fleeing after the… fighters fired indiscriminately at people and buildings”.
The militants are linked to the Islamic State group which have driven a vicious conflict in the region of Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique, with more than 2,500 people dead and 700,000 displaced so far.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said that “The very small number of Irish nationals known to have been in the area of Cabo Delgado are confirmed safe. Embassy Maputo is monitoring the situation closely and is in contact with the Mozambique authorities, as well as the UN and other international agencies on the ground.”