Mozambique has denied reports of mass beheading by militant Islamists in the northern Cabo Delgado province even as international bodies call for a probe into the alleged killings.
The governor of the gas-rich province, Valige Tauabo, said there were no recent killings in any district of the province, contrary to reports.
He added that the last known killings by the Islamists took place on 6 April.
The state media had on Tuesday reported that more than 50 people were beheaded by the militants at a football pitch in a village in Miudumbe district.
The gunmen chanted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”, in English), fired shots, and set homes alight when they raided Nanjaba village on Friday night, the state-owned Mozambique News Agency quoted survivors as saying.
Governor Tauabo said there had only been “incursions by evildoers” who were being pursued by the military.
He added that the government is concerned about the spread of armed violence in Cabo Delgado.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called on the authorities in Mozambique to investigate brutal killings this past weekend in the country’s northern Cabo Delgado province and bring the perpetrators to justice.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Guterres expressed shock over the reports of massacres by non-state armed groups in several villages, including reported mass beheadings and kidnapping of women and children.
“He strongly condemns this wanton brutality,” the statement said.
“The Secretary-General urges the country’s authorities to conduct an investigation into these incidents, and to hold those responsible to account. He calls on all parties to the conflict to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.”
Guterres also reiterated the UN’s commitment to continue to support the people and government of Mozambique in urgently addressing immediate humanitarian needs and efforts to uphold human rights, promote development and prevent the spread of violent extremism.
An armed militant group attacked several villages in northern parts of the province between 6 and 8 November, brutally killing more than 50 people, abducting several women and children and burning down homes.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the humanitarian situation in Cabo Delgado province deteriorated in 2020 on the back of an escalating conflict.
This is compounded by a fragile situation of chronic underdevelopment, consecutive climatic shocks and recurrent disease outbreaks.
Increasing number of attacks by non-state armed groups, particularly impacting the northern and eastern districts of the province, have caused massive and multiple displacements, disrupting people’s livelihoods and access to basic services.
More than 355,000 people are estimated to be internally displaced in Cabo Delgado, and its neighbouring Nampula and Niassa provinces, as of the end of October 2020, with numbers said to be rising by the day.
The violence, displacements and consequent loss of livelihoods are also increasing food insecurity in Cabo Delgado where over 710,000 people are facing severe hunger, including displaced persons and host communities.
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