JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Twelve people, possibly foreigners, were found beheaded after an attack claimed by the Islamic State in the city of Palma, in northern Mozambique, a local police commander told the state broadcaster.
Commander Pedro da Silva told reporters visiting the city, close to $ 60 billion worth of natural gas projects, that he was unsure of the nationality of the 12 people, but believed they were foreigners because they were white.
“They were tied up and beheaded here,” he said in a video broadcast by TVM on Wednesday, while pointing to areas of disturbed land where he said he buried the bodies.
Insurgents linked to the Islamic State 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 like South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana met in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, on Thursday, to consider a response to the insurgency.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mozambique, Veronica Macamo Dlhovo, said that the leaders decided to send a mission to Mozambique this month.
“The mission will come to assess the dimensions of the threat and see what means to employ, so that these means are proportionate,” she said.
A statement issued after Thursday’s meeting referred to a “technical development” for Mozambique and said that more meetings of the SADC regional bloc would be called.
The government said tens of thousands died in the latest attack, which began on March 24, and aid groups believe tens of thousands of people have been displaced. But the total scale of victims and displacement remains unclear.
National police spokesman Orlando Mudumane said he saw the TVM footage, but could not confirm its content, and that they were investigating.
Reuters was unable to independently verify reports of the attack on Palma. Most of the media with the city was cut off after the attack began.
The army says Palma is safe, after soldiers have cleared a final part of the city.
The TVM footage was shot outside the Amarula hotel, where a large group, including foreigners and locals, was surrounded by insurgents in the days following the attack.
The group tried to escape in a car convoy on March 26, but were ambushed outside the gates. Seven were killed, the government said. This included a British man and a South African. Their bodies have already been removed from Palma.
Reporting by Emma Rumney and Alexander Winning in Johannesburg, Catarina Demony in Lison and Manuel Mucari in Maputo; Edited by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, Bernadette Baum and Alison Williams