Insurgents behead Cabo Delgado locals as food shortage bites

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Beheadings appear to be resurgent in strife-torn northern Mozambique with a conflict observatory reporting at least six people killed in this manner in the third week of May.

All the beheadings, Cabo Ligado (“connected Cape” in Portuguese) reports, were between Nova Zambézia and Nkoe, 20 km north of Macomia district headquarters. The beheadings followed an attack, claimed by Islamic State (IS) in a 23 May statement, which also claimed the death of four Mozambican soldiers.

The Cabo Ligado summary has it IS fighters “made their way to Nguida village, about 15 km to the west, where the next day insurgents reportedly killed several more people, according to local sources. An IS statement on 24 May claimed three people were killed in the attack.

“Later the same day, insurgents moved south-west to Chicomo village, where buildings were set on fire. This was confirmed by NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System, which detected a number of fires in the village on the night of 21 May. IS claimed the attack, saying they killed one person.

“According to a local source, security forces left Macomia district headquarters for Nguida on the morning of 22 May. Locals estimate at least seven died in attacks of the previous two days. It is thought insurgents may be trying to make their way to the Minhanha zone of Meluco district,” the conflict observatory, consisting of the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), Zitamar News and MediaFax, states.

“Groups of insurgents were also active across other districts of Cabo Delgado, though their main goal seems to be to procure food rather than to kill.

“Security consultant reports claim small squads of insurgents launched food raids on 17 May on Quifuque island in Palma with no reported casualties and Maganu village near Chicuaia Velha in Nangade, possibly killing one person in the process, though this has not been corroborated.

“A local source reported Olumbe village in Palma district was attacked for the second time in two weeks on 21 May. This information allegedly came from fleeing residents, who claimed insurgents burnt down numerous houses. It is still unclear if there were any casualties in the attack on the village on 6 May.

“While there are armed groups evidently still determined to maintain their campaign of violence, the ongoing food crisis triggered a collapse in morale within some ranks of the insurgency.

“On 16 May, a 12-year old girl from Mocímboa da Praia kidnapped by the insurgents turned herself in to Macomia authorities. A local source related her testimony of her experience with the insurgency to Cabo Ligado, describing severe hunger as insurgents are forced to live off a meagre diet of crushed plants and honey. She and other captive girls were sent to work in the fields and took the opportunity to surrender. According to the girl, insurgents are active around Muidumbe, Macomia, and along the Messalo river.

“On the same day, a local source in Nangade reported another captured woman released with her claiming many insurgents are now asking to be rescued by the authorities. There are reports of surrenders, though not all could be verified. According to news agency Carta and a security consultant on 15 May a group of insurgents approached Namuine villagein Nangade and announced a wish to surrender. Security forces are said to have arrived and taken up to 40 insurgents into custody. Most were reportedly young and inexperienced fighters. According to the same consultant, this was followed by the surrender of 19 more the following day. Another source claims a further nine men surrendered to Tanzanian troops in Nangade district on 17 May. Three were said to be local and six from Tanzania.

“There were also surrenders in Macomia district, where 40 insurgents are said to have laid down their arms to government security forces on 17 May. Earlier, they passed on their intention to surrender to a local peasant, explaining they were giving up because they had no reinforcements or food.