Children as young as 11 are being brutally beheaded in what is a grotesque Islamic insurgency that has killed and displaced thousands in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. The northern-most province of Cabo Delgado has since 2017 been home to a festering insurgency, linked to Islamic State (Isis), that has escalated dramatically in the past year. More than 2,500 people have been killed and 700,000 have fled their homes since the insurgency began
While beheadings have always been a hallmark of the attacks, throughout 2020 the insurgents began regularly engaging the military to capture and hold key towns. Brutality also continued, with mass killings including the murder of about 52 people at once in the village of Xitaxi in April. A report by UK-based aid group, Save the Children, said it has largely been young boys killed by the militants, while girls are often captured and forced to “marry” the jihadists – forced, in other words, to become sex slaves.
The insurgents are known locally as al-Shabab, which means The Youth in Arabic. This reflects that it receives its support mostly from young unemployed people in the predominantly Muslim region of Cabo Delgado. A group with a similar name has existed in Somalia for more than a decade. It is affiliated with al-Qaeda, unlike the Mozambican group which allied itself with the rival ISIS movement in 2019.
According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project and Save the Children, almost 2,700 people on all sides have died in the violence and 670,000 displaced.
The US embassy in Mozambique on Monday said American special forces would train Mozambican marines for two months, with the country also providing medical and communications equipment, to “support Mozambique’s efforts to prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism”. The European Union also announced that it would provide training to Mozambican forces.