Mozambique’s army condemned the apparent execution of a naked woman by men in military uniform, shown in video footage, where she is beaten with a stick before being shot in the back as she tries to flee.
In the unverified footage, which circulated on Monday, the group taunt the woman, referring to her as ‘al-Shabaab’ – a local term for an Islamist insurgent group operating in the northern province of Cabo Delgado since 2017, with no known link to the Somali group of the same name.
One hits her on the head and body with a stick before others shoot and they say in the video, kill her on roadside.
In a statement on Monday the army, engaged in a battle with insurgents in the province, also home to massive gas projects developed by oil majors including Total, said it considered the images shocking and horrifying and “above all condemnable”.
“The FDS (Defence and Security Forces) reiterate they do not agree with any barbaric act that substantiates the violation of human rights,” it said, calling for an investigation into the video’s authenticity.
The footage comes amid allegations of abuses by government soldiers in Cabo Delgado. After an escalation in insurgency, which saw the capture of port town in August and the security forces’ response, reports and videos of beatings and other abuses are increasingly common.
Last week, Amnesty International said it verified videos showing attempted beheadings, torture and other ill treatment of prisoners, dismemberment of alleged opposition fighters and possible extrajudicial executions.
Government dismissed the allegations, saying insurgents regularly impersonate soldiers to confuse national and international public opinion.
Zenaida Machado, researcher for Human Rights Watch, called for an investigation and said the acts, if committed by soldiers, sowed distrust in the population and strengthened insurgents’ narrative.
“It’s a worst case of betrayal,” she said, adding frightened people should not run from insurgents only to find themselves in danger from those supposed to keep them safe.