Maputo — Islamic fundamentalists on Sunday attacked a column of the Mozambican defence and security forces on Sunday morning, in Mocimboa da Praia district, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, according to a report on the independent television station STV.
Killed in the attack was the head of reconnaissance of the riot police, whom the report did not name. He was first shot, and then the attackers hacked at his body with machetes. Five other police officers were seriously injured, and were later taken to the main hospital in the provincial capital, Pemba.
The column was ambushed as it was on its way to resupply the police unit stationed at Mitumbate, one of the villages in Mocimboa da Praia that has come under attack recently. The fundamentalists blocked the road, and when the police left their vehicles to remove the obstacles, the attackers opened fire.
This clash comes three days after the General Commander of the police, Bernadino Rafael, gave the islamist insurgents an ultimatum. Speaking in Mocimboa da Praia town on 14 December, Rafael gave the islamists a seven day deadline to surrender and hand over their weapons, in which case they would be pardoned. Those who refused, however, would be hunted down as terrorists.
A group of Islamic fundamentalists took the authorities by surprise on 5 October with a simultaneous attack on three police facilities in Mocimboa da Praia. Local residents, including orthodox moslem leaders, say they warned the authorities about the group, but no preventive measures were taken.
The group is often called “Al-Shabaab”, but seems to have no direct connection with the Somali terrorist group of that name.
Since 5 October, there have been sporadic attacks against villages, and the police say they have detained 251 suspects. Most are Mozambicans, but 37 are Tanzanian citizens.