Maputo — The Cabo Delgado provincial court in northern Mozambique on Wednesday began the trial of 189 people suspected of involvement in terrorist activities since the outbreak of an islamist insurgency almost exactly a year ago.
The accused are 152 Mozambican citizens, 29 Tanzanians and three Somalis. 42 of them are women.
Because there are so many accused, the opening session took place in the three prisons where they are being held, and in each place the prosecutor, Rodrigo Munguambe, read out the charge sheet.
According to the summary in Thursday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias", the prosecution states that on 5, 6 and 7 October 2017, the accused took part in armed attacks against the district police command in the town of Mocimboa da Praia, and the barracks of the Forestry Resources Protection Unit in Oasse. In these attacks, the insurgents killed two police officers and injured a further five.
In November and December 2017 the same group seriously injured other policemen and the Nanshemele neighbourhood secretary in Mocimboa town. In their attacks on police units, the insurgents stole 34 AK-47 assault rifles, and 7,200 rounds of ammunition. They also vandalised three police vehicles.
Munguambe said members of the group were recruited in local mosques by Tanzanian citizens, who promised them large sums of money if they successfully incited people in Cabo Delgado to disrespect and disobey Mozambican state institutions.
The Mozambicans in the group come not only from various districts in Cabo Delgado, but also from Memba and Nacala, on the coast of the neighbouring province of Nampula, from Mopeia, in Zambezia province, and from the central city of Beira.
The Tanzanian accused come from Zanzibar and from the mainland provinces of Songea, Mtwara and Massassi. The Somalis are from the Kismayo area.
The charges they face include first degree murder, use of banned weapons, membership of a criminal association, and instigation of collective disobedience against public order.
The accused will be interrogated one by one, starting on Monday. Given the large number of accused the trial is expected to continue into early 2019.