The northern town of Palma, in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, has been attacked by ISIS terrorists leaving the fate of hundreds of civilians trapped between terrorists and government troops unknown. 

Palma was attacked on three sides by about 100 ISIS terrorists. The attack came just after the government announced that it had resumed work on the $20 billion Liquified Natural Gas project run by the French company Total in Afungi, outside of Palma. The project had been suspended in January due to the threats of violence in the region. 

Total released a statement saying that none of its staff were killed in the incident, but the “remobilization of the project that was envisaged at the beginning of the week” has been halted.

As a result of earlier terrorist attacks, Palma has been largely cut off from the remainder of Cabo Delgado province as ISIS terrorists had made road access unsafe, leaving the airport and the seaport as the only safe points to enter and exit the town.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that witnesses described seeing “bodies on the streets and residents fleeing after the… fighters fired indiscriminately at people and buildings.” One witness told HRW that the situation was “total chaos.” Another claimed that ISIS was beheading bodies on the street.

One witness told HRW that “people were running and shouting ‘al-Shabaab is here… It’s al-Shabaab… They’re killing everybody.”

The locals mistakenly call the group al-Shabaab. These terrorists don’t have any connections to the Somali terrorist group. In fact, the group’s name is Ahl al-Sunnah wa al Jamma’ah (ASWJ) and it joined the Islamic State’s Central Africa Province a year ago. 

The United States has designated ASWJ a terrorist organization and listed them as “ISIS Mozambique.” Earlier this month, the United States sent a contingent of Special Forces to Mozambique to train the military in counter-terrorism tactics

Northern Mozambique, specifically the province of Cabo Delgado that is a mostly-Muslim area of the country, has been wracked by violence by Islamist insurgents. The violence has left thousands dead and more than 700,000 civilians displaced. 

When the fighting began earlier this week, hundreds of people attempted to flee, running into forests, mangrove swamps, or nearby villages. About 180 people, including foreign workers on the natural gas project, have been trapped inside the Amarula Palma hotel. The situation in the hotel was critical, as those trapped were caught in a crossfire between government forces and the terrorists. They reported via telephone to news agencies that they were out of food but still had water. 

A South African security company, working for the Mozambican government, attempted to rescue people from the hotel in a convoy of vehicles and move them to a nearby beach. Helicopters buzzed overhead and airlifted about 20 people to safety. ISIS insurgents ambushed a convoy of vehicles trying to take civilians to the town of Pemba about 260 miles south of Palma. Portuguese news service LUSA reported that seven people were killed in the ambush.