The bodies of twelve people – assumed to be foreigners – have been found beheaded in Mozambique’s northern town of Palma, following last month’s attack claimed by militants linked to Islamic State. A forensic team has been sent to identify the victims.
Twelve decapitated bodies were found after a jihadist raid on the Mozambique town of Palma on 24 March, strewn in front of a hotel where dozens had sought safety, army and private security sources said on Friday.
A local police commander told journalists the victims, who were white, had been tied up under a tree.
Chongo Vidigal, head of operations to regain control of Palma, said a forensic team would be sent to disinter and identify the victims.
The news came as crisis talks were held by Southern African leaders in the capital Maputo.
In a joint statement, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said it was concerned about “acts of terrorism perpetrated against innocent civilians, women and children”.
Close to 200 people, mainly civil servants and foreigners working on a nearby gas project, sheltered in the beachfront Amarula Palma Hotel for several days.
During the multi-day raid, militants prevented helicopters from rescuing the group from the Amarula, firing into the sky as they attempted to land.
On March 27 they ambushed a convoy of military trucks that had managed to evacuate around 80 people from the hotel, killing at least seven.
Ten of the convoy’s 17 vehicles are still unaccounted for.
Those remaining in the hotel eventually went to nearby military barracks on the beach and were ferried away on boats.
Dozens were killed in the assault, according to provisional government reports, including a British and a South African national.
Officials claim the town is back under government control and have allowed some media in to report on the aftermath.
The jihadists behind the attacks belong to a group known as al-Shabaab, although they have no known ties to the Somali militants bearing the same name.
They pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State in 2018, aiming to establish a caliphate and have become increasingly active in the northern Cabo Delgado province, where Palma is located.
The United Nations says thousands of people have been killed and some 670,000 displaced in recent years.
The children’s charity Save the Children reported that children as young as 11 were being beheaded.
Thursday’s crisis summit, attended by the presidents of Botswana, Malawi, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, was aimed at finding solutions to the insurgency.
Security analysts described the meeting as “disappointing” and “frustrating”, RFI’s Portuguese service reported.
It’s understood a team of technical experts will be sent to northern Mozambique to assess the situation.