Beheading trial starts in Mozambique

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Mozambique put on trial 189 people, including foreigners, accused of being involved in deadly Islamist attacks in Cabo Delgado.

Since October last year, more than 100 people were killed, often by decapitation, in 40 separate attacks, in villages in the a province on the border with Tanzania where companies are developing one of the biggest gas finds in a decade.

The trial is in the open penitentiary in Pemba, provincial capital of Cabo Delgado, where hundreds of suspected militants including 50 from Tanzania are detained.

The area is near one of the world’s biggest untapped offshore gas fields. Anadarko Petroleum is seeking to raise $14 billion to $15 billion for a liquefied natural gas project in the region.

In June, President Filipe Nyusi vowed to be relentless and firm neutralising those responsible for the attacks.

He was quoted by state news agency AIM as saying he instructed his security force in Cabo Delgado not to kill them.
“If you catch these youths, don’t kill them. They are Mozambicans. They’ve been turned into instruments. They’ve been given orders by people who don’t want the development of this country and this province,” AIM quoted Nyusi as saying.

Security consultants and domestic media described the attackers as members of Al-Sunna wa Jama’a, an unknown Islamist group. Residents also refer to them as “Al-Shabaab”, although there are no known links to the Somali group of the same name.

Mozambique has no history of Islamist militancy and authorities are reluctant to ascribe the attacks to Islamists. About 30% of Mozambique’s 30 million people are Roman Catholics, while 18% are Muslim.