JOHANNESBURG (AP) — In the wake of the days-long attack by Islamic extremist rebels on the northern Mozambican city of Palma at the end of March, a private military group contracted by the Mozambican military denies charges that it gave preference to whites when rescuing people trapped in a hotel.

Amnesty International charges that the Dyck Advisory Group gave preference to whites over Blacks when evacuating people at the Amarula Hotel.

“Witnesses told us of racial discrimination in decisions about who to evacuate from the Amarula Hotel,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s regional director for east and southern Africa. These are alarming allegations that the rescue plan was racially segregated, with white contractors obviously receiving preferential treatment. The total lack of coordination between the Mozambique security forces and Dyck Advisory Group resulted in evacuations that were racist, and must be thoroughly investigated.”

The Dyck Advisory Group said Friday that its helicopters rescued 24 people from the hotel, six of whom were white and 18 others were Black.

“The DAG team did not choose who would or would not be evacuated. They secured the landing site and loaded the people that were sent to them for evacuation by the lodge manager. This was done six people at a time, at no time did our staff enter the lodge while undertaking the evacuations,” the Dyck Advisory Group said in a statement.

“Most of the people that we rescued over the 10-day period that we undertook operations in Palma, were Mozambican nationals. In fact of the 240 people that we got to safety at the Afungi peninsula only 12 were white, and two of those were bodies that we recovered so that they could be returned to their families,” said the statement.

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“We stand committed to our human rights obligations as encapsulated in our company policies and are incredibly proud of our team and the efforts that they made during this attack to support and save as many of the civilians stuck in the middle of the fighting, this was done at great personal risk to themselves,” said the statement.

In a report earlier this year, Amnesty International alleged that hundreds of civilians in Cabo Delgado were unlawfully killed by the extremist rebels, government security forces and the Dyck Advisory Group. Amnesty called for an urgent investigation into these killings, saying they may amount to war crimes.

The Dyck group said it is preparing a report to counter Amnesty’s charges that it had perpetrated human rights abuses against Mozambican civilians while contracted by the Mozambican government.