The insurgency, which began in 2017 with a group known locally as Al-Sunna wa Jama’a, was originally inspired by a stew of local grievances in Cabo Delgado, a province of vast forests and immense mineral reserves, including graphite and ruby mines, along Mozambique’s border with Tanzania.
In 2019, the group identified with ISIS’s Central Africa Province, which is also present in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and this year has stepped up its campaign with increasingly brutal attacks against civilians. and by wresting territory from the government.
His biggest achievement came in August with the capture of the port of Mocimboa da Praia. Further north, the group has taken over territory around Palma, a port which is the main base of international energy companies in hopes of tapping Mozambique’s untapped offshore gas reserves, considered the second largest in the world. world.
Beheadings are a common feature of Islamic State attacks in Mozambique, said Zenaida Machado, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, who estimated that the majority of the conflict’s more than 2,000 civilian victims had been beheaded.
“They use machetes,” she said, referring to the activists. “Initially, they had specific targets when they attacked a village – government officials, teachers, nurses, local chiefs. Now it’s random.
Exact details of the attacks are difficult to establish as Mozambique has barred journalists and human rights researchers from entering the conflict zone and most international aid agencies have fled.
After the Muidumbe attacks, Pinnacle News, a local news service, reported that activists gathered the 20 bodies, along with victims from other sites, at a soccer field in Muatide village in a gruesome display intended for sow fear in the local community.