Maputo — At least 17 people were murdered when islamist terrorists occupied the town of Macomia between Thursday and Saturday, according to a report in Tuesday's issue of the independent newssheet "Mediafax".
By late Sunday afternoon, Macomia communities had counted 17 dead, all of them civilians. In one neighbourhood, Nanga "A", according to a second newssheet "Carta de Mocambique", eight bodies were found, one of them beheaded.
There are also reports of two other people, who had left the town, dying in the surrounding bush. One was a child who spent three days in the bush with her parents, and died of hunger. The second was a teacher hospitalised in the Macomia Health Centre. When the attack began, he was taken out of the health centre and died in the bush.
One eye-witness, cited by "Mediafax", said the raiders killed some of their victims when they were unable to answer questions about islam.
It is feared that the death toll will rise as more bodies are found in the ruins of what was once a busy trading town on the main road from the provincial capital, Pemba, to the Tanzanian border.
The islamists sacked the Macomia prison and released all its inmates - whom they then used to carry looted goods to vehicles, which drove away towards the village of Miangalewa, which is still in jihadist hands.
Vehicles were seen carrying away bodies wearing military uniform. It was not clear whether these were members of the government forces, or islamists, who also wear uniform. According to defence Minister Jaime Neto, 78 of the jihadists were killed in the Macomia clashes.
In addition to the prison, the attackers destroyed the health centre, the Macomia district administrative offices, a primary school, the local offices of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the town's main market, a small hotel, at least three shops, and the mosque of Sheikh Sujai Aifa (despite their proclaimed allegiance to islam, the jihadists have no tolerance for other muslims who do not share their extremist ideology).
According to the "Mediafax" sources, the jihadists numbered in total up to 120 people, and attacked Macomia from three directions on Thursday morning. There was heavy fighting between the attackers and the defence and security forces, but he government forces were outnumbered and had to retreat. The helicopters that came to the aid of the ground forces could do little, because the terrorists and the townspeople were inextricably mixed.
The islamists used the local residents as human shields to deter a government counter-offensive. Only on Saturday, did the terrorists pull out, and those residents of Macomia who had fled into the bush could return and view the devastation.