MAPUTO, 16 March 2021 – Children, some as young as eleven years old, are among those who have been beheaded by jihadist militants in Mozambique’s northern Cabo-Delgado province.
Accounts of the beheadings have been provided by Save the Children, a leading global aid agency.
The agency cites one mother who said she had to watch her 12-year-old son beheaded close to where she was hiding with her other children.
“That night, our village was attacked and houses were burned,” the mother said.
“When it all started, I was at home with my four children. We tried to escape to the woods but they took my eldest son and beheaded him. We couldn’t do anything because we would be killed too.”
Another woman said she and the rest of her family fled their village after the beheading of her son.
“We fled to my father’s house in another village, but a few days later the attacks started there too.”
The woman and her family had to flee that village as well.
The attacks on children “sicken us to our core”, Save the Children has said.
“Our staff have been brought to tears when hearing the stories of suffering told by mothers in displacement camps,” said Chance Briggs, the Save the Children Director for Mozambique.
The United Nations special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions described the militants’ actions as “cruel beyond words”.
No fewer than 2,500 people have been killed in Cabo-Delgado since the jihadist militants linked to the Islamic State – an al-Qaeda affiliate – launched a deadly insurgency in 2017.
Known locally as al-Shabab, which means The Youth in Arabic, the insurgents are now blamed for the internal displacement of over half a million people.
The insurgents released videos last year showing their fighters armed with AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
Thousands of people have fled the violence into neighboring Tanzania and the US embassy in Maputo committed last Friday to deploy American special operations forces to help train Mozambican troops fighting Islamic fundamentalism.
The report by Save the Children did not say which group is behind the beheadings.
Giant deposits of ruby and gas fields were discovered in Cabo-Delgado in 2009-2010, raising hopes that the newfound wealth will change the lives of millions in one of the country’s poorest provinces.
The ongoing armed conflict in the province seems to aim at fighting over control of the rich resources in its territorial waters and underground.