Mozambique authorities say they are detaining 12 Iraqi nationals linked with supporting insurgents in Cabo Delgado province, providing further evidence of an external hand in the local violence that has claimed thousands.
The country's Attorney-General said they have locked up the dozen for their role in fuelling the insurgency.
Located about 1,663 kilometres north of the capital Maputo, Cabo Delgado boasts of gold, tourmaline and many other minerals, and multinationals Exxon Mobil and Total engage in oil and natural gas projects there.
The province has a population of 1,800,196 and 16 districts. But an insurgency there has made economic activities almost ground to a halt.
The Mozambican government and the UN say at least 300,000 people have been displaced due to the conflict in Cabo Delgado and that between 1,000 and 2,000 people have been killed.
The province, which borders Tanzania, has been the scene of an Islamist insurgency by a group calling itself Ansar Al Sunnah. In the area, however, they are referred to as Al-Shabaab. But it has no known links to the Somalia-based jihadist group going by the same name.
Mozambique has been battling the Islamists since 2017. The arrest of the Iraqis, however, could be a new pointer to foreign involvement. Earlier some Tanzanians and Kenyans had been arrested.
The AG's Office said the Iraqi nationals were in December last year arrested in a vessel with firearms such as AK-47 machine-guns, hunting-guns, pistols, ammunition, binocles, one motorbike and one credit card in Pemba bay.
The foreign nationals were charged with terrorism, carrying forbidden firearms and organisation of crimes against the state and of delinquent association against public order and tranquility.
The Iraqi nationals belong to a terrorist association that wanted to furnish firearms to the so-called Al-Shabaab, the state charges.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in a statement on Wednesday, called on Mozambican authorities to investigate escalating violence in Mozambique where the group horrendously beheaded civilians at a public field last week.
"The secretary-general is shocked by recent reports of massacres perpetrated by armed groups in several villages in Cabo Delgado province in north of Mozambique, including beheading and kidnapping of women and children", Mr Guterres said.
French President Emmanuel Macron has also expressed his concern over the insurgency in Mozambique.
The recent report of attacks against civilians in Mozambique makes salient the threat of terrorism to the international community, the French leader wrote in a Portuguese and French tweet on Wednesday.
"In Mozambique, more than 50 people were beheaded, women kidnaped, villages robbed and then burned. The barbarous are sequestering a peace religion to spread terrorism: The Islamic terrorism is an international threat that requires an international response".
Meanwhile, lobbies say that for too long the international community has ignored the horrors unfolding in Cabo Delgado.
"Our calls for accountability for appalling crimes under international law and human rights violations including torture, dismemberment and extrajudicial executions have been ignored by the Mozambican authorities," Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Southern Africa Muleya Mwananyanda said.