THE United Nations has called on Mozambique to investigate reports that militants had massacred villagers and beheaded women and children in a restive northern region.
As many as 50 people have died in recent days in attacks by fighters linked to Islamic State, local media including Mediafax and The Pinnacle News have reported.
Violence had surged this year in Cabo Delgado – a province that borders Tanzania and is the site of a multi-billion dollar natural gas project – alarming governments across southern Africa.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called for an investigation in a statement late on Tuesday.
“The Secretary-General is shocked over recent reports of massacres by non-State armed groups in several villages … including the reported beheading and kidnapping of women and children,” his spokesman said.
There was no immediate response from the government.
Militants seeking to carve out an Islamist state started attacks in Cabo Delgado in 2017. They have seized key towns for brief periods and hit military targets this year.
In September, Amnesty International accused Mozambican soldiers of committing atrocities during a crackdown on the violence, but the defence ministry dismissed the reports, saying militants regularly impersonated soldiers.
According to reports, the victims were rounded up and taken to a football field where they were killed. Their dismembered bodies were found scattered across a forest not far from the field. The
According to the BBC, the militants gunmen chanted ‘Allahu Akbar’ as they raided a village and abducted some of its women, while others slaughtered victims in nearby Muatide.
The attack is the latest in a growing battle between the Mozambican government and extremists linked to ISIS.
This is not the first attack. A few weeks ago, militants attacked villages, looting and burning homes.
‘Police learned of the massacre committed by the insurgents through reports of people who found corpses in the woods,’ said an officer in the Mueda district.
‘It was possible to count 20 bodies spread over an area of about 500 metres,’ he added.
‘These were young people who were at an initiation rite ceremony accompanied by their advisers.’
An aid worker in Mueda said body parts had been sent to the victims’ families for burial.
Jihadists have caused havoc in the province over the past three years, ravaging villages and towns as part of their insurgency in the province of Cabo Delgado.
The unrest has killed over 2,000 people since 2017, more than half of them civilians, according to the US-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data group.
Over 400,000 others have been displaced by the conflict and sought refuge in nearby towns and cities.
According to Doctors without Borders, at least 10,000 people fled to the provincial capital Pemba via boat over the past week alone, raising concerns over access to clean water and sanitation. – Thomson Reuters Foundation and African Mirror Reporter.