"Security forces turning Ibo Island into murderous police state, locals say," was the Zitamar (23 Apr) headline. Arriving boats were attacked on 12, 16 and 21 April, with estimates of civilians killed ranging from 18 to 48.
In an unusually detailed statement on 23 April, Renamo national spokesperson Jose Manteigas accused the armed forces (FADM) of murdering defenceless civilians on Ibo. He said that on 12 April, a boat carrying people and goods from Pemba was intercepted as it arrived at the Ibo jetty. FADM members allegedly dragged the boat under the pier, and opened fire against the occupants. Manteigas gave the names of eight people who had been killed, including the Renamo head of mobilisation in Ibo district, Momade Chabane, and his son, Samuel Momade, who was also a member of Renamo. The killers threw the bodies into the sea. The Renamo statement is on https://bit.ly/Renamo-Ibo
Other reports said 12 people were killed, but Carta de Mocambique (24 April) said 40 people were killed and that the attack was by members of the riot police (UIR, Unidade de Intervencao Rapido). Most people on the boat were traders carrying merchandise, and the riot police took all the goods they had been trasnporting, says Carta.
Ibo has a large military presence and many refugees from the mainland, notably from Macomia and Quissanga, which have been repeatedly attacked. But many residents fled Ibo after insurgents attacked neighbouring Quirimba island on 10 April. On 22 April the Ibo administrator ordered the reopening of district offices of health, education and others which had been closed after the attack on Qurimba, and gave civil servants who had fled six days to return to work.
Controlling a key corridor
Insurgents have been moving over the past two months to control a key 100 km east-west corridor south of Macomia and the Quirmbas national park. See map on https://bit.ly/BilibizaMap. This is an area of only 3 main roads.
+ The N380 is the only paved road from Pemba to the gas fields. Going north it crosses the washed out bridge over the Montepuez river and runs north through Nangololo to Macomia and then further north to Muidumbe where there were further attacks, including the massacre at Xitaxi.
+ Just north of the Montepuez river there is a dirt road going east from Montepuez though Meluco, which then crosses the N380 south of Nangololo and goes to Bilibiza and then ends at Mahate at the coast, where it joins
+ a dirt road runs from Quisanga, an important coastal port, south to Pemba; 10 km south of Pemba is Mahate, with the road west to Bilibiza, and the road continues south over the Montepuez river (over a bridge which is also washed out).
Control of this zone south of the Quirmbas park and north of the Montepuez river gives the insurgents the ability to tax and attack all west-east and south-north traffic. The move from Quissanga to Quirimba island was straightforward. Ibo is the obvious next target, because control of Ibo and Quirimba would give the insurgents control of coastal shipping as well.
These are recent incidents reported in this corridor:
Qurimba. After the Qurimba island attack on 10 April, a large group was taken both to carry goods taken from the market to Quissanga, and to serve as shields against the Dyke helicopter gunship. Some were quickly released, but 26 young women and 15 young men are still being held - the men apparently to be guerrillas, which is a further indication that the insurgents are following the 1980s Renamo model of kidnapping school-age young men as fighters. There are rumours of similar kidnappings from other villages,
Quissanga. Insurgents have been living alongside locals since Quissanga was occupied on 25 March. Officials and many residents fled to Pemba, and the insurgents exert some control over daily life for those who remain, reports Zitamar (24 Apr). They encourage those in the town to pray every morning, and encourage fishers to continue, but demand a portion of the catch for themselves. On Sunday 19 April insurgents played - and won - a football match against the local youth, according to a source employed by the district administration, who has sought refuge in Pemba. The insurgents are staying in the unfinished new building of the Quissanga secondary school, the source said. Zitamar says that the insurgents are trying to win hearts and minds in coastal areas, but are being much harsher inland.
Mahate, the village 10 km south Quissanga at the junction of the roads going west to Bilibiza and south to Pemba. Local people have been encouraged to take food from a warehouse with aid for the victims of cyclone Kenneth that hit the area just over a year ago. (Zitamar 24 Apr)
Bilibiza, 30km southwest and inland from Quissanga. Insurgents have banned the sale of alcohol and tobacco. In one incident, locals helped insurgents collect firewood for cooking; on their return to the town, insurgents fired into the air, causing local traders to flee - allowing the insurgents to distribute food to the local people, in particular the elderly. (Zitamar 24 Apr)
Cagembe, 20 km north of Bilibiza. Insurgents are issuing travel passes to peasants to allow them to tend their fields without fear of assault. (Zitamar 24 Apr)
Nangololo, on the N380 between Macomia and the junction of the east-west road, has had three attacks and decapitations in the past week. Four people were decapitated during the 18-19 April weekend. Four men in Imbada village were surprised by attackers while participating in a funeral ceremony on 22 April, and were beheaded. Three more people were beheaded in the nearby village of Unguia on 25 April. (Zitamar 24 Apr; @jasminechic00)