Mozambique experienced its first confirmed Islamist attack on October 2017. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
Mozambique experienced its first confirmed Islamist attack in October 2017. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

Suspected jihadists killed 12 and injured 14 in an attack on a village in northern Mozambique last week, reports AFP.

“Ten people killed were shot by firearms and two burnt [to death] after 55 houses were charred. A person was beheaded after being shot dead” in the village of Paqueue, in Cabo Delgado province, a local source told AFP.

The village is located nearby the popular tourist archipelago of Quirimbas, in a region where the government is hoping to exploit natural gas reserves.

In another incident last week (20 September), a military convoy was attacked by armed men near the border with northern neighbour Tanzania. One senior army officer was killed, according to a police source, who said “the attackers wore military uniforms and had large-calibre firearms”.

Since October more than 50 people have been killed in a series of 20 raids in Cabo Delgado, the South Africa-based Institute for Security studies (ISS) said in June, after another attack on a village in which an elderly man was beheaded and at least 100 homes burned down by a group of six men.

Human Rights Watch said in June the violence had displaced more than 1,000 people.

Locals and authorities have attributed the attacks to Islamist militants, raising alarms over the emergence of a new jihadist movement in the southern half of Africa – a section of the continent previously relatively untroubled by violent Islamist extremism.

The assailants who attacked three police stations in October last year apparently called themselves Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamâ (often abbreviated to Al-Sunnah), which translates roughly as “adherents of the prophetic tradition”. But locals dub them Al-Shabaab, even though the group doesn’t seem to be formally affiliated to its more famous Somali namesake.

Local officials said the attackers were common bandits, not terrorists, but analysts quoted by ISS said the gruesome attacks on civilians demonstrated that Al-Sunnah has raised its terror campaign to a new level.

“Although the attacks are not directly related to Christian persecution, the upsurge of Islamist attacks in the north of Mozambique is cause for concern,” a spokesperson for Christian charity Open Doors International told World Watch Monitor.