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KZN man killed in Mozambique attack

South African Adrian Nel was killed in an attack by Islamic State linked insurgents in Palma, Mozambique on Thursday. I SUPPLIED

South African Adrian Nel was killed in an attack by Islamic State linked insurgents in Palma, Mozambique on Thursday. I SUPPLIED

Published Mar 29, 2021


Durban - THE family of Pietermaritzburg-born Adrian Nel, who would have celebrated his birthday this Thursday, are hoping to receive his body from Mozambique in the next few days.

The 40-year-old was killed in an attack by Islamic State-linked insurgents last Thursday. He was part of a convoy that was trying to escape the town of Palma, in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique.

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Nel’s aunt Heather Janse van Vuuren said her nephew’s death had devastated the family. Recalling last week’s events, she said they had been receiving sporadic messages from Nel about the situation in Palma. From what she could gather, her nephew, his brother Wesley and stepfather Greg Knox had been stuck at the Amarula Lodge Hotel.

She said the Mozambican soldiers had left the area and the hotel residents were left with the option of staying at the hotel and getting killed, or making a run for it. They chose the latter, and Nel was killed when the car he was in was shot at.

Janse van Vuuren said they had heard news that someone had been killed and asked the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) about whether it was a family member. Dirco said they did not know. However, the following morning Dirco confirmed that it was indeed Nel.

“Adrian was somebody who lived life to the fullest. He was an amazing father and an amazing son. My sister and Adrian’s mother Meryl are doing the best they can.”

Janse van Vuuren felt for Nel’s brother Wesley, who was expected be back in the country on Sunday. She said Nel’s stepfather Knox was in Pemba province arranging for Nel’s body to be returned to South Africa.

She wanted her nephew, a father of three, not to be a statistic but for him to be remembered as a person. She wanted the world to know that those who were missing in Mozambique were people and should not be reduced to numbers.

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It was reported that shootings began just hours after French Energy Group Total said on Wednesday that it would resume work at its $20 billion (R300bn) project after halting operations in January due to security concerns.

Nearly 200 people had been sheltering in the Amarula Palma Hotel during the attack, according to three diplomats and one of the organisations with people inside.

Total said on Saturday that it had postponed the restart of work at its site near Palma, a logistics hub adjacent to gas projects worth $60bn. No project staff were among the victims of the fighting, it said.

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Cindy Cooke, a South African whose 21-year-old stepson Francois van Niekerk is in Palma, was frantically trying to get information.

His family had not heard from him since Wednesday, although rescuers had been to his location on Saturday and said he was not there, she said.

“It’s scary. Being there is no joke. They (the insurgents) are ruthless, just ruthless,” she said.

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Beheadings have been a hallmark of attacks by the insurgents, whose rebellion is rooted in local issues from poverty and unemployment to perceived corruption and religious discrimination.

Mozambique’s government said on Thursday that security forces were working to restore order in Palma.

Dirco said it had noted the attacks in Palma.

“In this regard, South Africa, through its Mission in Maputo, is working with local authorities on verifications, as well as providing the necessary consular services. The mission in Mozambique is being reinforced with additional staff in order to handle the work at hand of locating, identifying and responding to the respective needs of the affected.” – Additional reporting by Reuters

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