Maputo — The Islamic fundamentalists known locally as "Al Shabaab" on Tuesday left the village of Naunde, in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, a smoking ruin.
According to villagers who spoke to the independent television station STV, the raiders arrived at about 23.00 on Monday night at Naunde, a village some 70 kilometres from the town of Macomia.
A man named Amade Inchute said the raiders first gave the standard moslem greeting, in Arabic, "Salaam Aleikum" ("Peace be upon you"). Inchute's family gave the normal response "waalaikum salam" ("And peace unto you").
But the intruders' intentions were anything but peaceful. "They tied my son to that palm tree and murdered him", said Inchute. The raiders also killed his nephew.
The islamists went from house to house, killing and burning. In all they murdered six villagers with machetes, usually slitting their throats, and shot a seventh. They set cars and houses on fire, and the strong wind blowing that night ensured that the flames spread, devouring 164 homes.
Although the attackers claim to be moslems, not even the village mosque escaped their fury. According to another villager, Anrisse Mario, they killed the imam, and burned prayer mats and even copies of the Koran.
The villagers' livestock was not spared wither - at one house, a corral containing 15 goats was set ablaze.
Alerted to the attack, a unit of the Mozambican defence and security forces arrived on the scene about an hour after the attack had begun. They were too late to catch the raiders, but began a manhunt through the local bush.
STV reported that the villagers are now leaving Naunde, and filmed long lines of people, carrying on their heads the few belongings they could salvage, heading for safety, perhaps in Macomia town.
Similarly the village of Monjane, in Palma district, where five people were beheaded by the jihadists on 27 May, has been abandoned, living crops unharvested in the fields.
The police refer to the group, not as islamists, but simply as criminals and murderers. At his Maputo press briefing on Tuesday, the spokesperson for the General Command of the police, Inacio Dina, dismissed the name Al-Shabaab as "irrelevant", since the members of the group did not use this name themselves, and had no known political or religious demands. As far as the police were concerned, they were common criminals.
"If we want to give names to these groups, names which they themselves don't use, then we're going to lose focus", said Dina. "We reaffirm that these are criminals. They are criminals who are committing murder, assault, arson and various other crimes covered by the Penal Code. It is against criminals that we are acting".