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Land of fear 
Terror and chaos overwhelm
Mozambique’s troubled far north

Barnabas Aid July August 2021

Since an intense wave of terror attacks began in November 2020, thousands of displaced people have taken refuge on the beach at Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado, crammed into makeshift shelters 

In Mozambique’s far north, nowadays known as the “land of fear”, terror and instability are raging. In this Muslim-majority and resource-rich area of a poor and underdeveloped Christian-majority country, Islamist militants have launched at least 831 attacks since 2017, killing at least 2,658 people.

 

In Mozambique’s far north, nowadays known as the “land of fear”, terror and instability are raging. In this Muslim-majority and resource-rich area of a poor and underdeveloped Christian-majority country, Islamist militants have launched at least 831 attacks since 2017, killing at least 2,658 people.

Almost one million people are facing severe hunger across northern Mozambique due to jihadi violence, according to a report from the World Food Programme published in April 2021. Around 700,000 are estimated to be internally displaced in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, where the Islamist violence is centred.

Until the beginning of 2021, food was still arriving by boat from Tanzania, through the mangrove swamps, but then the jihadists cut the supply lines, bringing the real possibility of starvation.

An Islamist terror group, known locally as Al-Sunna wa Jama’a or Al Shabaab (not the Somali-based group), has wreaked havoc in the region since the insurgency began in 2017. It aims to establish an Islamic caliphate in oil- and gas-rich Cabo Delgado, an area where violence was previously unknown. Barnabas Fund contacts confirm that anyone who will not embrace the jihadists’ beliefs is attacked, often with shocking brutality, including Christians who refuse to deny Christ, and moderate Muslims.

Beheading, skinning and cutting off the limbs of their victims are the group’s typical methods. “What they do to the people they capture and kill I have never seen anywhere in Africa,” said an expert.

“I don’t know where my wife is. I haven’t heard of her since that bad day”

“When they captured us, they set aside the Christians and non-Muslims,” recalled Mani, a traumatised Christian survivor of an Islamist attack on his town of Moçimboa da Praia. “After they divided us, we had to watch the non-Muslims and Christians be decapitated.” Mani was able to flee and after eight hours on foot reached Muti, a small village near the coastal town of Palma. He travelled on to the provincial capital Pemba by boat in the hope of being reunited with his daughter and sister.

“I don’t know where my wife is. I haven’t heard of her since that bad day,” said Mani. “I lost everything, my documents, money and everything was burned by the attackers. My family here barely has enough food for themselves. Without this gift from God, I really don’t know how me and my little girl would have got through a day,” he said thanking Barnabas for the aid his family received.

Three-quarters of a million people have fled Islamist violence in the far north of Mozambique

At least 50 people beheaded in a three-day massacre

In one of the worst attacks of 2020, the jihadists beheaded more than 50 people on a football pitch in Muatide village during three days of ferocious violence in November. Two people were beheaded in a nearby community when gunmen shouting “Allahu Akbar” stormed into Nanjaba village, firing weapons and setting homes alight.

Islamic State boasted of killing Christians after ruthless assault on Palma

A ruthless and prolonged assault on Palma began on 24 March 2021, and saw beaches strewn with bodies. The Islamist terror group Islamic State boasted on its Internet news site of killing at least 55 people, including Christians and other civilians, Mozambican soldiers, and “crusaders” (meaning Westerners). It took ten days before the Mozambique army succeeded in retaking the town.

More than 16,500 people fled the stricken district by vehicle, boat or foot. Many, including children, walked for days through the bush to find safety, some arriving with swollen and injured feet.

In some towns, the population swelled to double or triple normal levels as the displaced people arrived. Some found shelter with other families – who had little enough even for themselves.

A survivor who walked for three days without food and water, covering about 30 miles, to reach Namoto on the Tanzanian border said, “Many children are dying in the bush … People have been captured and others have died.”

Many hundreds of locals and foreign workers were rescued by boat, taking them to refuge at Pemba, 155 miles south of Palma. Five days after the assault about 1,400 people arrived at the port in a single vessel.

Barnabas Fund has been sending food to some of the neediest displaced Christians. This includes staples such as rice, beans and cooking oil, as well as ePap, a porridge containing protein, vitamins and other vital nutrients to bring health to the malnourished.

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