Maputo — The Islamist group that has been active in parts of the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado since last October launched three raids against villages over the past weekend, according to a report in Tuesday's issue of the independent newssheet Mediafax.
The epicentre of the jihadist insurgency is the district of Mocimboa da Praia where the first attacks against police premises occurred on 5 October. Last Friday the terrorist group returned to Mocimboa da Praia, attacking the village of Diaca Velha, near the boundary with Nangade district.
The attackers stole food and other goods, and killed a number of people. The Mediafax report could not put a figure on the number of casualties.
On Saturday, the islamists attacked Mangwaza village in Palma district, where they killed one person, burnt down four houses and stole more food.
On Sunday, the group returned to Diaca Velha, and the local population abandoned their homes, fleeing to the nearby village of Awassi. Three people are missing, believed to have been kidnapped by the raiders.
These attacks happened within a week of President Filipe Nyusi's working visit to Cabo Delgado.
The Mozambican police have neither confirmed nor denied the weekend attacks. Contacted by Mediafax, the spokesperson for the General Command of the police, Inacio Dina, asked for time to obtain information from Cabo Delgado.
However, the paper's sources report that the Defence and Security Forces in Cabo Delgado launched pursuit operations on Sunday, and captured 30 people believed to be members of the jihadist group.
About a week ago the Cabo Delgado provincial attorney's office remitted to the provincial court the case against 234 people arrested after the earlier attacks, 32 of whom are Tanzanian nationals. They are accused of crimes including first degree murder, mercenarism and the illegal possession and use of firearms.
155 of the accused are in preventive detention, while the other 79 have been released conditionally and are awaiting trial at home.
The prosecution says that none of the accused give clear motives for their actions, and will not say who ordered the attacks.
The group is known locally as Al Shabaab, although it does not seem to have any formal connection with the Somali terrorist organisation of that name. Among its demands are the imposition of sharia law, a ban on the sale of alcoholic drinks, and the removal of secular monuments and Christian crosses.
The moslem leadership in Cabo Delgado was aware of, and alarmed by, the presence of extremists. Orthodox moslem clerics tried to warn the authorities of the danger, but until October last year such warnings were not taken seriously.