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An ex-police officer shot dead two militants after breaking into a government vehicle and grabbing an AK-47 as he escaped an Islamist massacre in Mozambique.
Nick Alexander, a dual British-South African citizen, was rescued on Sunday having spent two nights crawling through the bush after his convoy fleeing a hotel in Palma was ambushed during his daring escape.
Seven people, including a British contractor, were killed as they fled the Amarula Lodge hotel compound after two days of gunfire near the site of a £14billion major gas project.
Philip Mawer, a caterer from Somerset who works at the hotel, has not been seen since the attack and is among an unknown number of expats who remain missing.
Thousands of survivors evacuated by boat or plane on Sunday, with witnesses forced to wait on beaches strewn with headless bodies after the decapitations by the militants.
Battles are continuing between the insurgents linked to Islamic State and government forces after the terrorists arrived in Palma on Wednesday, Omar Saranga, a spokesman for Mozambique’s defence ministry, said in a statement.
Among those rescued was Mr Alexander who was at the rear of the convoy and made it to safety on Sunday when he made contact with his daughter Jayde, 29, in Johannesburg.
She told The Times: ‘He saw the commotion with the ambush ahead and got out.
‘There was a government vehicle with an AK47 in it, so he broke in, got it and shot dead two al-Shabaabs [militants].
‘He and two others from the car then ran to hide into the bushes with the gun. They were literally crawling through the bush until they were rescued.’
Palma is six miles away from Africa’s biggest gas project run by French energy giant Total.
An ex-police officer shot dead two Islamist militants after breaking into a government vehicle and grabbing an AK-47 amid the bloodshed in Mozambique
Briton Philip Mawer (left) has not been heard from since attempting to flee Palma, while Nick Alexander (right) grabbed an AK-47 to gun down two militants
Dozens of people have been killed in an attack by Islamist insurgents on the northern Mozambique town of Palma
The Sea Star 1 has evacuated around 1,400 people, mostly workers from the French energy giant Total, after armed insurgents attacked the city of Palma
Philip Mawer, believed to be in his 50s, is understood to have been with around 200 other expatriates at Palma’s Amarula Lodge hotel, from where a convoy of vehicles fled on Friday and ran into militant ambushes, the newspaper reported.
Mawer works for RA International, a Dubai-based firm that provided living quarters and other logistics for expatriate workers.
A statement from the firm said: ‘Our last communication with him was on Friday afternoon after which he was part of a convoy of vehicles that left the Amarula Lodge later that day.’
Evacuees included foreign gas workers, the BBC reported.
A South African woman, Meryl Knox, said that her son Adrian Nel died in the attack.
Her husband and another son hid with his body in the bush until the following morning, when they were able to make it to safety in Pemba, she told Reuters.
‘He died on a very violent and unnecessary day,’ Meryl told AFP.
Nel, his younger brother and father had only been in the coastal town since January, leaving Meryl to run a hotel business in the southeastern Kwa-Zulu Natal province of South Africa.
Thousands of survivors evacuated by boat or plane on Sunday, with witnesses forced to wait on beaches strewn with headless bodies
Battles are continuing between the insurgents linked to Islamic State and government forces
He had been contracted to build workers’ accommodation camps in the town, a gas hub in the province of Cabo Delgado.
On Wednesday, an unknown number of gun-wielding terrorists set upon the town, shooting indiscriminately and forcing nearly 200 workers, including expatriates, to seek refuge at the Amarula Hotel.
The family was holed up in the hotel for two days as the sound of heavy artillery echoed outside the walls.
With communications cut, Nel’s father got hold of a satellite phone and told Meryl of plans to evacuate them from the besieged hotel where food was beginning to run low.
A convoy of cars was ready to take them to safety.
‘As they were leaving, they were ambushed. They shot my son,’ Meryl said.
Adrian Nel, 40, pictured above, from South Africa was shot dead in a vehicle he was trying to escape in with his father and younger brother
‘There’s no way to possibly describe what you feel when you get news like that.
‘It’s just devastating, body numbing, mind numbing.’
Six other people were killed during the ambush.
Only seven of the 17-car convoy that had planned to make a dash from the hotel made it to safety.
Some had to turn back, witnesses said.
Meryl has no details of the exact nature of the attack that claimed her son’s life
Her youngest son will return to South Africa on the available first flight while her husband will wait to complete formalities to bring the remains of their son home.
Nel’s body is at a morgue in Pemba, the provincial capital where many survivors have been evacuated to.
Speaking to Sky News, Knox said of her son’s death: ‘When they were driving out unfortunately the insurgents ambushed them and my son was shot,’ she told the news outlet.
‘I learnt on Friday night that people had been killed as they tried to leave the hotel. We didn’t hear who had been killed.
‘It was only on Saturday morning that I got news that unfortunately it was Adrian.’
Locals gathered at the port on Sunday for news of family members after the savage attacks
Hundreds of people fleeing the attack are arriving by boat in the port city of Pemba, a diplomat and an aid worker said.
Militants struck Palma, a logistics hub for international gas projects, on Wednesday. The government has yet to re-establish control, the diplomat and a security source directly involved in the operations to secure Palma said.
Reuters could not independently verify the accounts, as most communications with Palma were cut on Wednesday.
Calls to officials at the foreign ministry and provincial government went unanswered or did not go through on Sunday.
The government has said it is working to restore order in Palma.
The boats arriving in Pemba on Sunday carried both locals and foreigners, including employees from the gas projects, the aid official and diplomat said. One boat was carrying around 1,300 people, said the diplomat.
French energy group Total said on Saturday it was calling off a planned resumption of construction at its development following the attack and would reduce its workforce to a ‘strict minimum’.
The company pulled out the majority of its workforce in January due to insecurity in Cabo Delgado province, which has been the target of an insurgency linked to Islamic State since 2017.
Government-contracted helicopters were searching for more survivors. Lionel Dyck, who runs a private security firm working with the government, said his helicopters had rescued at least 17 people on Sunday.
The number of people injured and killed in the five-day assault on Palma, or still unaccounted for, remained unclear. The town had previously been a refuge for people fleeing violence elsewhere in the province.
Source: Daily Mail News