JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Twelve people, possibly foreigners, were found beheaded following an attack claimed by Islamic State on the northern Mozambique town of Palma, a local police commander told the state broadcaster.
Commander Pedro da Silva told journalists visiting the town, near natural gas projects worth $60 billion, that he could not be sure of the nationalities of the 12 people, but he believed they were foreigners because they were white.
“They were tied up and beheaded here,” he said in footage broadcast on TVM on Wednesday, as he pointed to areas of disturbed earth where he said he buried the bodies himself.
Islamic State-linked insurgents have been increasingly active since 2017 in the northern Cabo Delgado province where Palma is located, although it is unclear whether they have a unified aim.
Regional leaders from countries including South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana met in Mozambique’s capital Maputo on Thursday to consider a response to the insurgency.
Mozambique’s foreign minister Veronica Macamo Dlhovo said the leaders resolved to send a mission to Mozambique this month.
“The mission will come to assess the dimensions of the threat and to see what means to employ, so that these means are proportionate,” she said.
A communique issued after Thursday’s meeting referred to a “technical deployment” to Mozambique and said further meetings of regional bloc SADC would be convened.
The government has said dozens died in the latest assault that began on March 24, and aid groups believe tens of thousands have been displaced. But the full scale of the casualties and displacement remains unclear.
National police spokesman Orlando Mudumane said he had seen the TVM footage but could not confirm its contents, and that they were investigating.
Reuters has not been able to verify accounts about the attack on Palma independently. Most means of communication with the town were cut off after the attack began.
The army says Palma is now secure, after soldiers cleared one final part of the town.
The TVM footage was taken outside the Amarula hotel, where a large group, including foreigners and locals, were besieged by insurgents in the days following the attack.
The group had tried to escape in a convoy of cars on March 26, but were ambushed just outside the gates. Seven were killed, the government said. That included one 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; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, Bernadette Baum and Alison Williams
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