Boat of Mozambique attack survivors gets to Pemba

A boat carrying more than 1,000 survivors of a deadly attack by Islamic State-linked insurgents in northern Mozambique arrived in the port of Pemba on Thursday (April 1).

Many of them distraught, as were the crowds of relatives waiting for their loved ones.

Aid workers waited to give survivors food and police and soldiers kept order.

The government says dozens were killed in the highly organized attack on the gas town of Palma, which began last Wednesday. But the exact number of casualties isn't known.

Mariamo Tagir was among many who fled and walked for days through the forest.

"I'm so tired. It was seven days in the bush. I'm so tired. We came across evildoers several times. The situation is really bad. There are many dead. Many dead."

Tagir left her son behind in Palma.

"It's very painful. I've been crying every day. I don't know where my son is. It's very painful."

Survivors have spoken of bodies in the streets, some decapitated.

Reuters has been unable to independently verify accounts from Palma and most communication was cut off after the attack began.

But Tagir describes similar horrors.

"They said they didn't want us. They wanted the military. The military who were not in their uniforms were saved. Some of them were cutting the throats of people from there."

Aid groups believe the attack displaced tens of thousands of people, many of whom fled into dense forest or attempted to escape by sea.

Hundreds, including many foreign workers, have been evacuated by air.

The fighting continued as recently as Tuesday (March 30), security sources said.

Islamist insurgents have been increasingly active in the surrounding province of Cabo Delgado since 2017, although it is unclear what specifically they are fighting for.

The district around Palma is home to natural gas projects worth $60 billion.

A diplomatic source said there were roughly 1,200 displaced people on board the boat, including 300 children and 400 women.

An official at the International Committee of the Red Cross said the government was screening those arriving at Pemba to prevent infiltration by armed groups.