Islamist fundamentalists murdered at least 57 people, with a further five deaths unconfirmed, and smashed their way into a church in an upsurge in violence at the beginning of April in Mozambique’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, which is Muslim-majority.
On 10 April, militants operating in Cabo Delgado launched a murderous attack leaving five dead in Quirimba island, part of the Quirimbas archipelago, off the northern coast. One person was shot, another was burned alive, and three drowned as they tried to escape. About 60 people were taken hostage, but released later the same day.
A day earlier, on 9 April, reportedly five died in an attack on Muambula village, in Muidumbe district on the mainland. The terrorists caused severe damage to the local church in the village, one of the oldest in the region, and destroyed homes of church missionaries before vandalising a secondary school.
On 7 April, at least 52 people were massacred in Xitaxi village, also in Muidumbe district, when they refused to join the Islamist terrorist group.
“The criminals tried to recruit young people to join their ranks, but there was resistance,” said a police spokesman. “This provoked the anger of the criminals, who indiscriminately killed, cruelly and diabolically, 52 young people.”
The Bishop of Pemba said relations between the local Christian and Muslim communities were good and there was no risk of an interreligious conflict. “We have made a practice of holding joint meetings, and we have already walked the walk for peace and prayed for peace,” he said. “[Muslims] have, from the beginning, distanced themselves from these attacks and said that those involved are not religious, and are misusing the name of religion to do this,”
Militant Islamist organisation called Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, known locally as Al Shabaab (not the Somali-based group), have effectively gained control of an area of Cabo Delgado. Militant attacks have intensified recent weeks as part of a campaign to establish an Islamist caliphate in the region, which is rich in oil and gas supplies. In March, militants occupied the centre of Mocímboa da Praia, a district headquarters, burning government facilities, including a barracks, and brandishing a black-and-white flag used by Islamic extremists.