At least 12 people were killed and 14 injured in an attack by suspected jihadists on a village in a gas-rich region of northern Mozambique, a local source told AFP.
“Ten people killed were shot by firearms and two burnt (to death)” in the northern village of Paqueue late on Thursday, September 20, the source said, adding that one person was beheaded after being shot dead.
The source said that 55 houses in the village were burned.
A health official in the Cabo Delgado region, who declined to be named, said that an ambulance was dispatched to Paqueue to “rescue the 14 wounded.”
In a separate incident, a military convoy came under attack north of Paqueue near the Tanzanian border, killing a senior army officer, according to a police source.
“The attack occurred at night when defence and security forces routinely patrol. The attackers wore military uniforms and had large-calibre firearms,” said the source who declined to be named.
Islamists blamed for attacks in gas-rich Cabo Delgado
Cabo Delgado province is expected to become the center of a nascent natural gas industry after several promising offshore discoveries near Palma. The vast gas deposits could transform the impoverished country’s economy, with experts predicting that Mozambique could even become the world’s third-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.
But the country’s north has largely been excluded from the economic growth of the last 20 years, creating fertile ground for radical Islamist ideology.
The region has seen a number of deadly assaults on security forces and civilians since October 2017, beginning with an attack on a police station and military post in Mocimboa da Praia in which two police officers died. That incident was believed to be the first jihadist attack in the country.
In the following weeks, at least 300 Muslims were arrested, some of them Tanzanians, and several mosques were closed.
At least 80 people have since been killed, VOA reported, and many incidents have been blamed on an Islamist group known locally as “al-Shabaab.”
The group is called Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama – followers of the prophetic tradition – or “Swahili Sunnah.”
Researchers have said the Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama leadership has links to Islamist groups based in Tanzania, Somalia, Kenya and in the Great Lakes region, where some also received training, Reuters reported.
In August, police identified six men – Abdul Faizal, Abdul Remane, Abdul Raim, Nuno Remane, Ibn Omar and a sixth known only as Salimo – who they said were leading attacks.
Security sources said then that Mozambican forces were beginning a series of offensives against the insurgency.
Less than a week later, security forces attacked an insurgent base near the village of Pundanhar, Bloomberg reported. At least four militants were killed, and Abdul Raim was captured.
The crackdown came in apparent response to a string of deadly attacks earlier this year.
On May 27, insurgents attacked two small villages near the Tanzanian border and decapitated 10 residents. The two villages are near Palma, a small town gearing up to be the country’s new natural gas hub.
Less than a week later nine “insurgents” were killed by security forces close to the site of the beheadings. They were subsequently found to be carrying assault rifles and Arabic-language documents, police said.
On June 5, suspected jihadists hacked seven people to death with machetes and set more than 150 of homes on fire during an assault on the village of Naunde in the Macomia district.
Other attacks since have seen several villages burned.
With reporting from AFP