Children as young as 11 years old are being beheaded in northern Mozambique, the NGO Save The Children denounced on Tuesday, in a jihadist conflict in which in just over three years, around 1,300 civilians have been killed.
“We tried to escape into the forest, but they took my oldest son and beheaded him. We couldn’t do anything because they would also kill us,” a mother of four tells Save The Children about the day insurgents attacked her town in Cabo Delgado province, burned neighbours’ houses and killed her 12-year-old son.
“This violence must stop, and displaced families must receive support to recover from the trauma,” Chance Briggs, director of this organization in Mozambique, said today in a statement.
According to data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), about 670,000 people have been displaced, and most have come to Pemba, capital of the Cabo Delgado province, seeking refuge in the homes of relatives or from other members of the community.
“My father, the (three) children and I spent five days eating unripe bananas and drinking banana water until we got a means of transport that brought us here,” says another survivor, who now resides in his brother’s house after armed men killed one of his 11-year-old sons.
The Jihadist conflict that affects northern Mozambique began in October 2017 with the first attack on two police stations in Mocimboa da Praia by a group nicknamed by the local population as Al Shabab, which is not related to the homonymous Somali terrorist organization but rather has ties to the Islamic State (IS).
Since then, violent attacks have not stopped growing in this strategic region rich in precious stones (rubies) and natural gas, whose extraction involves large multinationals such as the Italian ENI or the American Anadarko.
The growing insecurity is also associated with indiscriminate attacks against civilians perpetrated by South African mercenaries – according to Amnesty International denounced on March 2 – and Mozambican military accused of extrajudicial executions, torture and arbitrary detentions of suspected jihadists.
According to the Data Project on the Location and Events of Armed Conflicts, at least 2,614 people have lost their lives in this conflict, including 1,312 civilians.