Mozambique: Appalling images tell a gruesome tale of three days under fire by terrorists | World news

Briton Phil Mawer is believed to be among British killed in Mozambique

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Photos shared with Sky News, taken by survivors of the Palma terrorist attack in Mozambique, provide a graphic illustration of three terrifying days under fire, surrounded by insurgents.

Nearly 200 people – including foreign workers – took refuge in one of the city’s hotels.

But the survivors told Sky News how they fled for their lives because they believed they had been abandoned and no one was coming to save them.

A South African contractor spoke of almost constant shooting and shelling during the three days they were trapped inside the Amarula Lodge in Palma.

Those trapped inside the Amarula Lodge used the satellite phones they had among them to call for help, but no one came.

Wesley Nel has been filming on his cell phone throughout and his footage shows those stuck in the Lodge – including his brother Adrian and father Greg – lying on the floor of the upstairs restaurant as a volley of shots is heard.

“The shots just didn’t stop,” Nel said.

“Mortars – you’re talking about hundreds of mortars going off… probably 40 to 50 per hour. We counted them.

“And it went on for three, four days non-stop.

“They [the insurgents] must have stored tons of ammunition near or in town for months. ”

They managed to drive the vehicle to the quarry where they hoped helicopters could land to retrieve them. But none have happened

Mr Nel, his father and brother were contracted out to work on the massive, multibillion-dollar LNG (liquefied natural gas) project under development on the Afungi peninsula near Palma.

They had been told, despite militant unrest around the northern province of Cabo Delgado since 2017, that the city of Palma was safe and stable.

But when the insurgents launched their most daring attack to date on March 24, it seemed to catch the military and police completely off guard.

British entrepreneur Philip Mawer has gone hand-to-hand and a body was later found matching his description.

Briton Phil Mawer is believed to be among those killed in Palma attack

A week after the attack, Islamic State extremists said they carried out the attack. But little is known about the group called ISIS Mozambique (also known locally as al Shabaab).

Many analysts believe the ISIS flag is simply practical with many more complex layers at the heart of the insurgency, including geopolitical rivalries over Africa’s largest oil and gas investment, as well as dissatisfaction with the economic inequalities in the country.

Vast natural resources are found just off the coast of Mozambique’s poorest province.

Palma’s attack was vicious, brutal, and seemed to have a level of planning. It came just hours after French gas giant Total announced it was resuming work on the LNG project after months of disruption for safety reasons.

When gunfire broke out in the town, foreign workers who were stationed near the lodge headed straight there.

It was considered safe and had high perimeter walls and a helicopter landing strip for the elevators.

“We thought 100% that we were going to go out in a helicopter [on the first day of the terror attack]Mr. Nel said.

But he said only helicopters flown by the private security company DAG appeared to organize a rescue attempt.

DAG’s small helicopters could only airlift six people at a time. Women, children and the sick were loaded first and more than 20 people were brought to safety in Pemba.

But as the light fades and fuel runs out, the controversial security company that had been accused of war crimes by human rights groups just weeks before, halted its rescue mission.

The civilians imprisoned inside the Amarula Lodge used the satellite phones they had among them, to call for help from the Mozambican military, their employers, anyone.

“We told them, we are sitting ducks… we have nothing to protect us,” Mr Nel told Sky News.

Pictures show the group left in the hotel still appear to believe there would be further attempts to get them out of what was now a combat zone.

Shops, offices and a hospital in Palma have been vandalized
Shops, offices and a city hospital were vandalized

They are filmed sitting and standing with small bags ready to flee. But the help never came.

“We knew the insurgents were approaching,” Nel said. “It was only a matter of time before they walked through the gates and we were slaughtered. “

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Mozambique: interior of city destroyed by IS

In desperation, his older brother Adrian hatched a plan to get out of the lodge gates in an attempt to retrieve a weapon they said had been hidden in one of the vehicles parked outside.

It took him three races to find it. You can hear his brother Wesley squeeze him as he films him crossing the road.

“Come on Adrian, come on! He can be heard saying.

“Usually he would have a medal of honor,” his brother said.

But with a single gun between them and a few abandoned bulletproof vests left in the hotel by aid agencies, the group decided to organize a convoy of vehicles, pack as many people as possible and try their luck in outside.

Cell phone video shows the back of a van full of people waiting to exit through the hotel doors.

“We were determined to take everyone who wanted to go. We had four people in the trunk of our car, ”Nel said.

His brother Adrian chose to be one of the pilots.

“You have the dynamism of your life, my brother,” his younger brother told him in the pictures.

But just two minutes from the gate, the convoy of 17 vehicles was ambushed.

The vehicles stopped, Mr Nel said, and panic and frenzy raced through the bush as well as other cars.

The convoy continued with the brothers’ vehicle in about fourth place ahead, only to encounter another ambush as militants specifically shot at the drivers from the side of the road.

Adrian was hit twice. His brother recounts what happened.

“He started screaming that he was hit, that he was hit and his leg was sticking out and he couldn’t drive… someone has to take over… and everyone was screaming: keep driving too far as you can.

“He was like, I’m trying. Probably about a mile after he was saying I can’t… I’m going guys, I’m going… “

His brother stopped to the side and when Wesley reached him he was shaking uncontrollably. Now the younger brother is back in driving.

“I was holding his shoulder over the gunshot wound trying to stop the blood and he was just pumping,” Mr. Nel said.

“I started driving and I was just yelling back at them, put the other doses inside the gunshot wounds to stop the bleeding.

And all the time, his younger brother tries to reassure him about his love.

Mr. Nel collapses as he remembers, “I was screaming that I love him and take care of his family and I’m so sorry that happened to him. “

He managed to drive the vehicle to the quarry where they hoped helicopters could land to retrieve them. But there was still none.

The men fled into the nearby thick bush and camped overnight and until the next day before exiting.

This time, they managed to reach a DAG helicopter which transported them to the nearby Afungi airstrip.

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M. Nel: “We did everything for everyone and I had the impression that no one was doing anything for us”

“I begged them to come in and collect my brother’s body,” Wesley said. “I wasn’t going to leave him there. “

The DAG team kept their promise, recovered his brother’s body and with Mr Nel lying next to his deceased brother in the helicopter, they were taken to Pemba – then returned to South Africa.

Now he says friends and family have started crowdfunding to raise money for his brother’s young family. He leaves behind a wife and three young children.

“We did everything for everyone and it felt like no one was doing anything for us,” Nel said.

“And my brother paid the ultimate price… they just abandoned us and now I’m left with this… I can’t understand why there weren’t any foreign military in there who could help us.”

There are still more than 20,000 people missing for more than two weeks after the terrorist attack in Palma.

The Mozambican authorities sent hundreds of soldiers to the city and declared it free from terrorists.

Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi called for unity and pledged a huge job creation program and there were expressions of solidarity among the southern African countries that make up SADC.

But the insurgents still hold the strategically important port of Mocimboa da Praia and the challenge will be for the authorities to regain control there and crush the insurgency before it spreads further.

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