Humanitarian workers in Mozambique say thousands of people fleeing the violence in Cabo Delgado province are arriving in other parts of the country, while still others escape across the border into Tanzania.
So far there are 3,300 people seeking assistance, according to an update from UNOCHA, the United Nations agency for humanitarian affairs. Thousands more need refuge from violent attacks on Palma that have left even children beheaded and the bodies of villagers strewn in the streets.
“Many people reported seeing their family members killed and said they had to hide in the bushes for days, without food or water, to evade the armed attackers,” said UNOCHA in the statement issued late Tuesday.
The situation in Palma remains tense, the agency added. Sporadic fighting and clashes are ongoing almost a week after the attack that killed dozens of people, including some of those trying to escape from a hotel where they were surrounded while hiding.
Armed extremists claiming affiliation with Islamic State have been active in the region since 2017, but clashes with the military and attacks on civilians have escalated across the past year. The fighting that began in Palma last week after French oil company Total announced a restart of operations at its Cabo Delgado site has been especially violent, with the international community now involved in trying to suppress the extremists.
Portugal announced Monday that it is sending a small number of military personnel to Mozambique, while the United States has had boots on the ground for at least two weeks. Closer to home, South Africa is considering an expanded presence in the neighboring nation.
Image: UNOCHA file