5 April 2018

Mozambique: Courts Will Decide Fate of Seized Islamist Property

Maputo — The Mozambican courts will decide the fate of goods seized in clashes between the defence and security forces and islamist insurgents, in Mocimboa da Praia district, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, according to the provincial attorney's office, cited in Thursday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”.

The goods In question are six cars and pick-up trucks, three motorcycles, 130 books written in Arabic, including copies of the Koran, dozens of AK-47 assault rifles, and an assortment of other weapons, both modern and traditional (including machetes, axes, hammers and arrows).

The judge who tries the case of 214 people suspected of belonging to the insurgent group will decide what to do with all the property seized.

The Cabo Delgado attorney's office is drawing up the definitive charge sheet against the suspects - 182 Mozambicans and 32 Tanzanian citizens. All the Tanzanians and 121 of the Mozambicans are being held in preventive custody. The other 61 Mozambicans (including the ten women suspects) have been conditionally released, and are awaiting the trial at home.

The charges against the accused include forming a criminal association, the illegal possession and use of firearms, arson and aggravated theft. These charges are enough to send those convicted to jail for between 20 and 24 years.

There is still time to add other charges. Indeed, it is surprising that the charges do not already include armed rebellion and first degree murder, since several policemen and civilians died in the islamist attacks.

The insurgency began on 5 October with simultaneous attacks on three police installations in Mocimboa da Praia. Although the police quickly regained control of Mocimboa town, there have been subsequent sporadic attacks against villages in the district, and the clashes occasionally spilled into the neighbouring districts of Palma and Nangade.

The government was taken by surprise - although local muslim leaders had warned the authorities of the dangers posed by a radical group known in the province as “Al-Shabaab” (although it does not seem to have any direct connection with the Somali terrorist group of that name).

The police say that the situation in Mocimboa da Praia is currently calm.

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