JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Twelve people, possibly foreigners, were found beheaded after an alleged Islamic State attack in the northern Mozambican city of Palma, a local police commander told the state broadcaster.
Commander Pedro da Silva told reporters visiting the city, near $ 60 billion worth of natural gas projects, that he could not be sure of the nationalities of the 12 people, but he believed they were foreigners because they were white.
“They were tied up and beheaded here,” he said in footage broadcast on TVM on Wednesday as he showed areas of troubled land where he said he buried the bodies himself.
Islamic State-linked insurgents have been increasingly active since 2017 in the northern province of Cabo Delgado where Palma is located, although it is unclear whether they have a unified goal.
Regional leaders from countries including South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana met Thursday in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, to consider a response to the uprising.
Mozambique Foreign Minister Veronica Macamo Dlhovo said the leaders decided to send a mission to Mozambique this month.
“The mission will come to assess the dimensions of the threat and to see what it means to use, so that these tools are proportionate,” she said.
A statement issued after Thursday’s meeting referred to a “technical deployment” in Mozambique and said further meetings of the SADC regional bloc would be convened.
The government has said dozens died in the latest attack that began on March 24 and aid groups believe tens of thousands have been displaced. But the full extent of casualties and displacement remains unclear.
National police spokesman Orlando Mudumane said he had seen the TVM footage but could not confirm their contents and that they were investigating.
Reuters has not been able to independently verify accounts related to the Palma attack. Most means of communication with the city were cut off after the attack began.
The military says Palma is now safe after soldiers cleared one last part of the city.
TVM footage was taken outside the Amarula Hotel, where a large group, including foreigners and locals, were surrounded by insurgents in the days following the attack.
The group had tried to escape with a convoy of cars on March 26, but were ambushed just outside the gates. Seven were killed, the government said. This included a British and a South African. Their bodies have already been removed from Palma.
(Report by Emma Rumney and Alexander Winner in Johannesburg, Catarina Demony in Lison and Manuel Mucari in Maputo; Edited by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, Bernadette Baum and Alison Williams)
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