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White people ‘rescued first’ in Mozambique attack: Amnesty

White people were given preferential treatment for evacuation in a March air rescue when Mozambique’s Palma town was raided by Islamic State-linked fighters, rights group Amnesty International alleged Thursday.

In a report compiled from interviews with 11 black survivors, it charged that even dogs were pulled to safety ahead of black poeple by a helicopter that airlifted civilians from a hotel where they had sought refuge.

“White contractors (were) airlifted to safety before local black people,” said Amnesty, adding the hotel manager took his two German Shepherd dogs on the rescue helicopter, leaving people behind.

Dyck Advisory Group (DAG), a private company hired to help the government fight the militants and which was involved in the rescue operation, rejected the allegations.

DAG founder Lionel Dyck told AFP in a texted response that the allegations were “not at all accurate”, promising to issue a statement later

Jihadists swooped on the coastal town on March 24, and around 200 people, mainly civil servants and foreigners working on a nearby gas project, sheltered in the beachfront Amarula Palma Hotel during the attack.

Amnesty said there were about 20 white workers among the group holed up in the hotel.

Deprose Muchena, the rights watchdog’s regional director for east and southern Africa, said “these are alarming allegations that the rescue plan was racially segregated”.

“Abandoning people during an armed assault simply because of the colour of their skin is racism, and violates the obligation to protect civilians,” he said, adding that for the hotel manager to “choose to rescue his dogs instead of people is also extremely shocking”.

One survivor told Amnesty that “we didn’t want all white people to be rescued, because we knew that if all the whites left, we would be left there to die. We heard them talking about the plan to take all the whites and leave the blacks”.

But a white survivor, South African Wesley Nel, whose brother died in the attack, denied the discrimination claims.

“I was there. We all were abandoned black and white,” tweeted Nel, whose brother Adrian Nel was killed during a deadly ambush of a convoy of cars trying to flee from the hotel.

“But it was us ‘white’ people who saved 150 locals by driving us all out of there,” he wrote on Twitter following the publication of the report.

Twelve decapitated bodies were found strewn in front of the hotel days after the attack, according to the army and private security sources.

The attack marked a major intensification in an insurgency that has wreaked havoc across Cabo Delgado province for over three years as the militants seek to establish a caliphate.