More than 180 people, including foreigners were trapped inside a hotel in a northern Mozambique town under siege for three days by fighters linked to the ISIL.
Several people were dead, AFP news agency reported citing witnesses and a rights group, after the attack in the town of Palma near a liquefied natural gas (LNG) site in Cabo Delgado province.
ISIL-linked fighters began a raid on the coastal town on Wednesday afternoon, forcing terrified residents to flee into the surrounding forest as LNG and government workers sought shelter at the Amarula Palma hotel.
“Almost the entire town was destroyed. Many people are dead,” said a worker on the LNG site speaking on the phone on Friday evening after he was evacuated to Afungi.
“As locals fled to the bush, workers from LNG companies, including foreigners, took refuge in hotel Amarula where they are waiting to be rescued,” he said.
French oil giant Total is the principal investor in the $20 billion project, with six other international firms including ExxonMobil involved in the area.
The Mozambique government on Thursday confirmed the attack on the town and said soldiers had launched an offensive to evict the fighters from the town, the hub of the giant gas project.
The fresh round of attacks began on Wednesday hours after Total announced a gradual resumption of work at the LNG project, which had been hampered by the continuing rebellion in the region.
The province of Cabo Delgado has been the target of a simmering armed campaign since 2017 which has caused nearly 700,000 people to flee their homes.
The violence has left at least 2,600 people dead, half of them civilians, according to the US-based data collecting agency Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED).