PALMA, 10 April 2021 – The bodies of 12 people likely foreigners have been found beheaded in a hotel besieged by Islamist militants in the northern Mozambican town of Palma.
In footage broadcast by Mozambican television, Pedro da Silva, a local police commander, says he presumes the victims were foreginers because they were white.
Da Silva showed journalists from Mozambican television a spot where the 12 bodies were buried.
“They were tied up and beheaded here,” da Silva told reporters as he pointed to the spot under a mango tree where the mortal remains were laid to rest.
The victims were buried just outside the main door of the Amarula Hotel where many people had either taken refuge or were held during a several-day siege.
Authorities in Palma did not provide further details on the precise nationalities of the presumed foreigners.
A spokesperson for Mozambique’s defense ministry said dozens of civilians were killed during the raid and gun battles in the town which began last March 24.
It took ten days for the military to regain full control of the town and reportedly chase out or kill a “significant” number of al-Shabab militants.
Palma is situated near a multi-billion dollar gas project spearheaded by French oil giant Total.
During a meeting in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, on Thursday, six heads of state of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc condemned the attacks.
“Such heinous attacks cannot be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response,” the six leaders said in a joint statement issued at the end of their deliberations.
The SADC bloc has scheduled another meeting later this month to discuss the crisis in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province.
On the eve of the summit, Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi ruled out the deployment of foreign forces to fight the Islamist militants.
Twenty-four hours earlier, former colonial master, Portugal, had announced that Lisbon was sending troops to help Mozambique tackle the crisis.
Portugal later clarified that it was sending troops to provide training, not fight in the frontlines.
The United States of Embassy in Maputo had announced earlier in the month that Washington would be dispatching special operations agents to help train Mozambican forces to fight the Islamist militants.
At least 2,500 people have been killed and 750,000 others have been displaced by the violence which started in 2017.