The entire residents of the town of Palma in northern Mozambique have abandoned their homes after the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group seized control of the area in the wake of a prolonged deadly onslaught.
The gas hub of Cabo Delgado province came under control of the terrorists on Wednesday.
Nearly 200 workers, including foreign employees, were forced to evacuate a hotel where they had taken refuge.
Some residents of the northern town fled to the Afungi peninsula on the Indian Ocean coast south of the Tanzanian border.
The terrorist group announced in a statement posted on its Telegram channels that it had “seized the strategic town of Palma,” also claiming to have killed at least 55 people.
Moreover, the Takfiri outfit said it had destroyed and taken control of buildings including factories and banks, and seized a number of vehicles.
Following the announcement, civil society activist Adriano Nuvunga told AFP on Monday that the town of 75,000 people in Cabo Delgado was all but emptied of its population after the residents had fled by road, boat or on foot.
Many survivors said they had walked for days through forest to seek refuge in Mueda, south of the regional capital Pemba, where they arrived limping on swollen feet.
"Many people fell from fatigue and were unable to continue walking, especially the elderly and children," said one escapee in Mueda, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Mozambique Defense Ministry said late Sunday security forces had "reinforced their operational strategy to contain the criminal attacks of terrorists and restore normality in Palma, having carried out operational actions focused primarily on the rescue of hundreds of citizens in the last three days."
However, news media said officials at the defense ministry and Mozambique’s national police could not be reached by phone on Monday and did not immediately reply to messages.
Meanwhile, the United Nations condemned the deadly assault on Palma, with spokesman Stephane Dujarric saying, "We are deeply concerned by the still evolving situation in Palma where armed attacks began on March 24, reportedly killing dozens of people."
The raids came after an announcement by French energy group Total that it would resume work on a major gas project near Palma. Total has called off the planned resumption of its work following the violence.