MAPUTO, 15 January 2021 – An operation by Mozambican armed and security forces has rescued 15 women and six children kidnapped by al-Shabab Islamist militants.

Soldiers and police participated in the operation, according to the country’s police chief Bernadino Rafael.

Road Sign for Provincia De Cabo-Delgado

Road Sign for Provincia De Cabo-Delgado – Photo AllAfrica.com

The mixed team tracked down the militants using helicopters who were holding the women and children hostage in the island of Matemo, in the northern Province de Cabo-Delgado.

Following the release of the hostages and a security sweep of the island, Mozambican authorities declared Matemo safe Thursday.

Over the past three years, al-Shabab militants have launched several attacks on nearby towns and villages.

The Mozambique wing of al-Shabab recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

The militants have been accused of host of crimes, including looting, rape, beheadings, dug trafficking, gunrunning, arson of entire villages and human trafficking.

The women and children the group captures tend to be either sold into sex slavery to other groups or are used as sex slaves at al-Shabab bases.

One view of the Matemo Island Beach

A View of Matemo Island Beach – Photo Robert Harding

US defense department official, Anthony Tata, visited Mozambique four days ago to discuss American support to the government to restore security to the northern region of Cabo Delgado.

On Monday, the US Embassy in Maputo announced that it will provde $42 million in funding for humanitarian assistance and socio-economic development programs to be based in Provincia de Cabo-Delgado.

America provided $550 million in assistance to Mozambique in 2020, according to the current United States Ambassador to Mozambique Dennis Hearne.

Between 2013 and 2016, Mozambique started experiencing political violence arising, in essence, from differences between the former socialist majority party, FRELIMO, and the leading opposition political party, RENAMO, which as an armed group, fought the FRELIMO government during the country’s civil war.

In 2019, the two parties signed a permanent ceasefire and a political and military agreement, but the agreement has not been fully implemented.

Violent Islamist militants came to the surface in 2017 and two of these groups – al-Shabab and AISunnah wa Jama’ah – are among the most savage, engaged in kidnappings, hostage takings for ransom, and massacres, including the beheading of innocent civilians.

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