Atrocity allegations in Cabo Delgado denied

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Mozambique denies accusations by rights group Amnesty International of soldiers committing atrocities, saying the acts were carried out by Islamist insurgents impersonating troops.

Militants with links to Islamic State stepped up attacks in Mozambique this year, alarming governments across southern Africa.

Amnesty said on Wednesday it saw videos showing soldiers in Mozambique Armed Defence Forces uniforms and the Mozambique Rapid Intervention Police committing atrocities against alleged fighters in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado.

“The videos and pictures show attempted beheading, torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners; dismemberment of alleged opposition fighters; possible extrajudicial executions; and transport and discarding of a large number of corpses into apparent mass graves,” Amnesty said.

Mozambique’s defence ministry dismissed the report, saying militants regularly impersonated soldiers.

“One tactic used by terrorists in their macabre incursions against the population is to pretend to be elements of the FDS (Defence and Security Forces) in a veiled attempt to confuse national and international public opinion,” said ministry spokesman Colonel Omar Nala Saranga.

“The Defence and Security Forces reiterate they do not agree with any form of torture, beheading attempts, mistreatment or illegal acts,” he added in a statement.

Militant attacks began in Cabo Delgado in 2017 and gathered pace this year with insurgents seizing key towns for brief periods hitting military and other key targets.

The violence alarmed energy majors exploring major natural gas deposits there.