The Mozambican police have confirmed the story first published in Pinnacle News (8 Aprill) and Savana (10 April) that insurgents killed at least 52 people on 8 April in Xitaxi. Muidumbe district, on the N380 road where it divides with the N380 going north to Palma and a branch going up the hill to Mueda.
Cited by Radio Mozambique (21 Apr), the spokesperson for the General Command of the Mozambican police, Orlando Mudumane, said insurgents “cruelly and indiscriminately shot dead 52 youths in the village of Xitaxi," He said that in their attempt to recruit young people to their ranks, they encountered resistance, and reacted by murdering those who refused to join.
Investigative journalist Armando Nhantumbo who wrote the Savana article disagrees with the police interpretation and the numbers. (Savana 24 April) He says that local people were called to a meeting at 13h00 and people of all ages were there, from children to the elderly. The insurgents began to behead people and when people tried to flee, they were machine-gunned. The 52 dead were the bodies found by the police on the site. But Nhantumbo says others, although seriously injured, fled to the bush, where they died. He estimates the total dead at more than 70.
Nhantumbo also disputes the cause. The dead were not all young men. Instead the massacre was in retaliation for an attack on the insurgents the day before, when veterans of the liberation war killed more than 30 insurgents in a battle.
Savana says that Muslim coastal villages are now largely controlled by the insurgents. It appears the attacks on Muidumbe district were an attempt to push inland and up onto the Mueda plateau. Xataxi at the foot of the plateau is largely Christian in a zone with an historic catholic mission. The Makonde from the plateau formed the core of the initial independence guerrilla force and still form a key part of the army, faced with such a weak response from the military, it was left to independence war veterans and the families to stop the insurgents climbing up the hill.