Maputo — Islamist terror groups destroyed 11 villages in attacks on seven districts in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, according to a joint press release issued on Thursday by the Ministries of Defence and of the Interior.
The release, read out at a press conference by Interior Minister Amade Miquidade, said that the terrorists also kidnapped 16 citizens and a further 14 are missing. They destroyed by arson the recently built hospital at Awasse in Muidumbe district, where they also destroyed a fibre-optic communications cable belonging to the mobile phone company Vodacom.
On 12 May, the bandits sabotaged another fibre-optic line, this time belonging to the company Movitel in Mocimboa da Praia district. This left the entire district without any phone communications with the rest of the country, hindering the normal functioning of all institutions, public and private, in Mocimboa da Praia.
The terrorists also destroyed electricity transformer posts along the road running from Mocimboa da Praia to Macomia district.
Giving details of some of the terrorist operations, the release said that in Nangade district, on 3 May, they attacked Litingina village. They came back on 11 May and attacked both Litingina and Ngongolo villages.
In Quissanga district the islamists attacked Cajembe village on 4 May, and Tapara village on 9 May.
In Mocimboa da Praia, on 4 May, bandits opened fire in Ulu village, where they kidnapped five people, and on 13 May they attacked Ntotwe village.
In Muidumbe, on 11 May, the terrorists attacked both Awasse village and the headquarters of the Miangalewa administrative post.
In Macomia a terror gang attacked Nkoko village on 12 May, and the following day terrorists struck at Diaca village in Mueda district.
The release gave no figures for dead and wounded in these attacks. But it claimed that on 13-14 May, the defence and security forces killed 50 terrorists in two clashes.
The government forces, it said, surprised a motorised unit of terrorists on the road between Chinda and Mbau in Mocimboa da Praia. The islamists were using three vehicles (the type was not specified), three motor-cycles and a tanker truck which they had stolen.
The release says the government forces destroyed all the vehicles and motor-bikes and killed 42 terrorists.
The following day an attempted terrorist attack on the Quissanga district capital was rebuffed and eight of the raiders were killed.
The terrorist acts, the release said, "seek to distract, demoralise and sow confusion among the communities" in response to the earlier offensive by the defence and security forces against terrorist bases.
The goal of this "repulsive violence", it continued, "is to use terror, fear and disunity to undermine our will to build a prosperous nation, on the basis of the rich resources that are abundant in that part of the country".
Acts of terror in Cabo Delgado do not arise by chance, the two ministries said, "but bear an outside agenda, against which we call for the unity of the Mozambican people, and particularly of the youths from all parts of the country who are in the ranks of the defence and security forces, to toughen their tenacity day and night so as to defend with honour and heroism our independence, our freedom and the safety of the public".
The release called on the public "to maintain active vigilance", and to denounce to the authorities "all acts contrary to law and order, such as enticement, incitement and financing of terrorist actions".
This release gives many more details of terrorist operations than any previous government statement. It also changes the terminology: previously the government referred to the Cabo Delgado islamists as "insurgents" or as "malfeitores" (literally "evil-doers", but sometimes translated as "criminals"). This release, however, refers throughout to them as "terrorists".
The "outside agenda" mentioned presumably refers to the international terrorist organisation known as "Islamic State", or ISIS or Daesh. In recent months Islamic State has claimed responsibility for attacks in Cabo Delgado, and the Cabo Delgado islamists flew the black flag of Islamic State on at least two occasions earlier this year.