Maputo — The Cabo Delgado provincial court, in northern Mozambique, on Tuesday sentenced 24 people to prison terms for their part in the islamist insurgency that has been under way in parts of the province since October 2017.
According to a report in Wednesday's issue of the independent daily "O Pais", 32 people were on trial. The court sentenced 23 of them to 16 year jail terms, and one, who is a minor, to 12 years. Five of the accused were acquitted for lack of evidence, and three others died before the end of the trial.
The judge, Geraldo Patricio, in delivering his verdict, said it had been proved that the 24 had committed the crimes of first degree murder, the possession of banned weapons, instigation to disobedience, conspiracy and membership of a criminal organisation.
This was the second mass trial of insurgents. In the first, which began in October 2018, 189 people were on trial. But the police appear to have done their preparatory work badly, since the court acquitted 113 of them for lack of sufficient evidence.
37 of the accused were sentenced to between 12 and 40 years, and the spokesperson for the court, Zacarias Napatima, said that "autonomous cases" are being opened against a further 20. These are believed to be the same people who were granted provisional freedom before the trial, but then absconded, and whose whereabouts are currently unknown.
A further 50 alleged insurgents are facing trial in four separate cases. No date for these trials has yet been fixed.
The insurgency began with attacks on three police installations in the district of Mocimboa da Praia on 5 October 2017. Since then terrorist raids have also occurred in the districts of Macomia, Palma and Nangade, all in the north of the province.
The death toll in these attacks is at least 200. The insurgents have resorted to barbaric practices, such as beheading their victims, which seem copied from the activities of the self-styled "Islamic State" in Iraq and Syria.