Maputo — The Mozambican defence and security forces destroyed four boats used by islamist terrorists who attacked the island of Matemo, off the coast of the northern province of Cabo Delgado last week, according to a report in Tuesday's issue of the independent newssheet "Mediafax".
After an apparently successful attack on the headquarters of the Mucojo administrative post and surrounding villages, an unknown number of terrorists set off in two motor boats for Matemo, where people fleeing from Mucojo had taken refuge.
The terrorists looted goods from the islanders, and took several youths prisoner. But when, on the morning of last Wednesday, they returned to the beach, they found that their boats had been destroyed by helicopters of the Mozambican armed forces.
To return to the mainland, the jihadists stole two sailing boats. But oars and sails are slow forms of transport and the defence forces monitored the terrorists as they made their way to another island, Quilhaule.
Here the helicopters went into action again, sinking the two boats. All on board, both the terrorists and their captives, died. "Mediafax"'s sources say that over 30 people lost their lives. One of these sources said the terrorists killed one man on Matemo because they disapproved of his non-islamic haircut.
The administrator of Ibo, the district that includes the islands, visited Matemo on Friday to see for himself what had happened.
In addition to the terrorist threat, Matemo is also suffering from an outbreak of diarrhoeal diseases, and many people are now desperately trying to leave the island and seek help on the mainland, particularly in the provincial capital, Pemba.
But Pemba has been overwhelmed by the flood of displaced people fleeing from the jihadists. Wooden boats continue to unload displaced people on the Pemba beaches. According to data cited by the Portuguese news agency, Lusa, between 16 and 25 October, 175 boats arrived at Pemba, carrying 9,695 people.
The journey can involve sailing for three or four days in overloaded boats without food or water.
"These boats have no sanitation conditions at all. It's not a pleasure cruise", said businessman Osman Yacub, spokesperson for the Islamic Community of Mozambique. "People arrive hungry and dehydrated, after travelling in inhuman conditions".
At least two people are known to have died on board the boats before reaching the relative safety of Pemba.
Meanwhile, more details have become available about the operation in which the Mozambican forces drove the terrorists out of the small town of Awasse, in Mocimboa da Praia district, killing 270 jihadists for no losses of their own.
According to a report in Tuesday's issue of the newssheet "Carta de Mocambique", the joint force from the army and police and veterans of Mozambique's independence war was led by an 80 year old man known as "old Naveta".
The paper's sources describe him as "a respected and feared elder" who knows the area, because he fought here during the national liberation struggle. He used tactics that successfully drove the terrorists into a trap where the Mozambican forces could cut them down.
The veterans, the paper adds, now want to restore normality to Mocimboa da Praia district. But that will involve driving the jihadists out of Mocimboa da Praia town, which they have held since mid-August.