Mozambican army eliminates two senior insurgent leaders

Islamist militants have devastated villages in Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique over the past three years. Photo: AFP/SCANPIX

Mozambique latest: SA citizens ‘trapped’ as violent insurgency escalates

Violent attacks by Islamic militants in northern Mozambique continue, with families desperately appealing for SA’s government to intervene.

Mozambican army eliminates two senior insurgent leaders

Islamist militants have devastated villages in Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique over the past three years. Photo: AFP/SCANPIX

Several South African families are desperately appealing for help tracking down their loved ones after Islamic Militants – believed to be members of ISIS –stormed the town of Palma in Mozambique earlier this week, killing at least seven people in the process. One South African has been confirmed to be among the victims of the terrorist attack. 

The heavily armed militants began the siege on Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado on Wednesday 24 March, forcing around 200 people to evacuate a hotel where they had taken refuge, security sources said Saturday.

Mozambique insurgents storm Palma leaving SA citizens ‘trapped’  

Speaking to eNCA on Sunday, the mother of 21-year-old Francois van Niekerk – who runs a business with his father in the area and works as a subcontractor for French-based oil giant Total – told the broadcaster that the South African government has done little to assure her that they will be able to return him safely after 

“He’s been missing since Wednesday when the attacks started, the last time we had communication with him was at half past four on Wednesday, and just after that the [cell phone] towers were blown up,” Cindy van Niekerk said.  

“There was no warning [about the incoming attacks]. The attacks were outside of town and this time he phoned his dad and said that he doesn’t know what to do. His dad heard the bombing and the shots in the background. It’s been very scary and we’re very concerned about him. He wasn’t part of the group that was in the hotel, he was alone.”

SA government ‘unresponsive’  

Van Niekerk said that assistance from the South African government has been minimal, and she is worried that their efforts to contain the situation will ultimately prove inadequate. 

“We have contacted government but have had no response from them at all. There is a private South African company that is running the search and rescue operation, but it’s been very difficult for them, these terrorists are heavily, heavily armed.”

Fighting back tears, Van Niekerk pleaded with government to communicate with families who are desperately worried about their loved ones in Mozambique. 

“There are South Africans trapped there, we have no contact with them. Please, just make contact with us and make a plan to get to Palma.If there is a mission, we don’t know about it. We need help, we’ve been asking for help since Thursday morning.”

“After the people died on Friday evening, only then did our government start reacting,” she said. 

South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) has insisted that it is doing all it can to ‘assist those who want to come back home’, with spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele saying on Friday that the department has been aware of the trapped South Africans since Wednesday.

“The Department, through its mission in Mozambique, is aware of the situation and through our mission we are providing the necessary consular assistance to those affected and we are continuing to monitor the situation,” he said.

“Part of providing consular support is to assist South Africans who might want to come back home to find ways to come back home.”

Total suspend operations  

Total said on Saturday 27 March that it has postponed the restart of work at a in Mozambique following an attack this week. 

Disputes over the $20-billion project are understood to have played a major role in sparking the spate of violence levelled by the insurgents over the past few days, with the initial attack coming shortly after the company announced plans to resume construction at the site in Palma.