Rights Group Decries Indescribable ‘Horror’ of Mozambique Islamist Insurgency

Displaced women attend a meeting on December 11, 2020, at the Centro Agrrio de Napala where hundreds of displaced arrived in recent months are sheltered after fleeing attacks by armed insurgents in different areas of the province of Cabo Delgado, in northern Mozambique. (Alfredo Zuniga/AFP via Getty Images)

A leading Catholic charity has condemned the massive Islamist uprising taking place in Mozambique, which has involved atrocities such as mass beheadings.

“Africa is no stranger to violence on a vast scale but even by these standards, the horror of what is unfolding in Mozambique is truly indescribable – almost beyond compare,” said John Pontifex, spokesman for Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), in an interview this week with Crux.

The stories emerging out of Mozambique “are beyond our worst fears,” Pontifex said, with “reports of children as young as 11 being beheaded.”

Muslim militants, known locally as al-Shabab (different from the Somalia-based al-Shabab group), launched an invasion in March on the coastal town of Palma. The uprising drew the attention of international news after at least seven expatriate workers were shot dead by the gunmen.

“Whatever the world is seeing now has been going on in Mozambique for years,” said Johan Viljoen, the director of the Dennis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI), under the auspices of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC).

“We have tried to talk about it but no one cared to listen,” Viljoen said earlier this month. “There is a global uproar now because a handful of foreigners were affected. But this has been going on. More than 3,000 innocent Mozambicans have died in this violence and no one cared.”

According to reports, upwards of 3,000 people have been killed and 700,000 displaced since the Islamist fighters, allied to the Islamic State terror group, began its assaults on the Cabo Delgado region in 2017.

“If Daesh succeeds in a campaign of conquest,” Pontifex said in Monday’s interview, employing the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, “we can be in no doubt of the horrors to be visited on the people under the militants’ control.”

One Catholic nun working in the area, Sister Ramos Queiroz, “has reported widespread attacks on Christian communities, with several churches destroyed completely,” Pontifex said. “She said six of the 23 parishes in the diocese of Pemba are now deserted.”

“Now, we hear claims that the militants have bragged about ‘killing dozens of Mozambican armed forces and Christians,” he added. “This goes a long way to explain the mass exodus of Christians and the urgent need to provide internally displaced persons (IDPs) with emergency assistance.”


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