Body matching description of missing Philip Mawer found in Mozambique after terror attack

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Mr Mawer was among thousands of expatriates and locals caught up in the deadly assault on the gas hub town of Palma in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado region - RA International Website
Mr Mawer was among thousands of expatriates and locals caught up in the deadly assault on the gas hub town of Palma in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado region - RA International Website

A body matching the description of a British man who went missing during the terrorist attack in Mozambique has been found, his family have said.

Philip Mawer, a contractor for the Dubai-based firm RA International, was last seen on Friday afternoon as he joined a convoy of vehicles trying to break out of a days-long siege of a hotel in the town of Palma.

"Although formal identification has yet to be completed, we have now been made aware that the body of a man matching Philip’s description has been found. We understand that a formal process of identification is necessary before we can know for sure whether the body is Philip’s,” his family said in a statement put out by RA.

“It appears that Philip died while trying to escape from the siege by IS-linked insurgents of the Amarula Hotel near Palma.”

“Philip was an ebullient, outgoing character who had something of the lovable rogue about him. He had a wonderful sense of humour and could be relied on to find a humorous take on the most difficult of situations,” the family added.

The Telegraph understands the body was spotted in a wrecked vehicle by helicopter pilots with the Dyck Advisory Group, a South African mercenary company hired by the Mozambican government to fight the insurgents, on Monday evening.

The mercenaries were unable to recover the body but made a note of the location and returned the next day to cut it out of the vehicle and return it to Pemba, the regional capital.

The body was then handed over to three men believed to be SAS soldiers dispatched by London to search for Mr Mawer.

Islamist insurgents overran Palma on Wednesday afternoon, beheading locals and looting homes and shops.

Mr Mawer worked as the Mozambique country manager for RA International, a Dubai-based firm that provided living quarters and other logistics for expatriate workers.

He was an experienced operator in hostile environments and had previously worked in Somalia, Sierra Leone, Algeria, Afghanistan, and Yemen.

He was in Palma to build camps for workers at a vast new natural gas reduction project, billed to become Africa’s largest, being built by the French firm Total.

Mr Mawer was among around 190 locals and expatriates who took refuge in the compound of the Amarula hotel as the terrorists rampaged through the town on Wednesday.

A woman waits for her son to arrive in Pemba on April 1, from the boat of evacuees from the coasts of Palma - Alfredo Zuniga/AFP
A woman waits for her son to arrive in Pemba on April 1, from the boat of evacuees from the coasts of Palma - Alfredo Zuniga/AFP

But the group found themselves trapped when an attempted rescue by sea was blocked by insurgents on a nearby beach.

By Friday afternoon only a handful of people had been rescued from the compound by helicopter, and about 100 people chose to make a break for it rather than risk being overrun.

Their convoy came under fire as soon as it left the compound. Of 17 vehicles that broke out on Friday afternoon, only seven are known to have made it to safety.

It is still unclear how many people died in the attack on Palma. Besides Mr Mawer, RA says six local staff are also unaccounted for.

Map locates Palma, Mozanbique
Map locates Palma, Mozanbique

Mozambique forces backed by DAG helicopters were still trying to secure the town and surrounding areas on Thursday.

Lionel Dyck, the founder of DAG, said the situation was still “fluid”.

“It’s calmed down quite a lot, but [the insurgents] are still there,” he told The Telegraph.

A foreign office spokesperson said: "We’re deeply concerned by this latest development. We are in close contact with the family and are working with the government of Mozambique and the Met police to confirm further details.

“We stand with the people of Mozambique against the threat of terrorism and are working with the Government to restore peace and stability.”

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