Johannesburg, April 1, (dpa/GNA) – After days of fighting in the strategic coastal town of Palma in northern Mozambique, more details are emerging about the victims of the brutal attack.
The situation in Palma reportedly remained tense on Wednesday with sporadic fighting and clashes, one week after Islamist terrorists put the town under siege, killing dozens of people, the United Nations said.
The UN has already assisted some 3,300 people displaced from Palma, three-quarters of them women and children, but the number of displaced is believed to be much higher and to increase over the coming days, the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.
« The gruesome reports about the unprecedented levels of violence especially the killings, beheading and kidnapping of civilians, including women and very young children, are absolutely shocking, » three UN special representatives of the secretary-general said in a joint statement.
The aid organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Wednesday said it was treating people who fled from Palma to other areas of Cabo Delgado province.
The organization said it was « extremely concerned about the impact that this new outbreak of violence is having on already very vulnerable people, » according to a statement.
MSF arrived in the Afungi Peninsula near Palma on Monday to aid people seeking refuge. Many were traumatized, dehydrated and hungry, and some had severe injuries.
« We have cared for one baby with a bullet wound. Pregnant women are also coming in terrible condition – one woman, who appeared to be seven months pregnant, had intense bleeding; her baby had already died, » said Sylvie Kaczmarczyk, MSF coordinator in Cabo Delgao.
MSF was trying to locate other groups of people who had fled in the province.
On March 24, around 100 militants stormed the gas-rich town of Palma. Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attack, says it has taken control of Palma and killed more than 55 members of the Mozambican security forces.
There is no official report on the situation in Palma by the government.
French energy giant Total evacuated around 1,000 of its workers from the region where it is leading a 20-billion-dollar foreign investment project at its liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant.
The population in the oil-rich Cabo Delago province has been suffering from brutal attacks for the past three years in a simmering conflict that has cost an estimated 2,500 lives to date.
According to the UN, almost 700,000 people – half of them children – have been displaced by the violence, which, according to experts, is rooted in the poverty of the region, which has long been neglected by government.
Boys and girls are particularly affected by the crisis and are at heightened risks of suffering grave violations, with reports of recruitment and use by armed groups, sexual violence, abduction and disrupted access to humanitarian assistance and education, the UN warned.