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Islamists behead more than 50 people as football pitch is turned into killing field

Thousand have fled their homes in the violence-hit, gas-rich northern region of Mozambique

Mayank Aggarwal
Tuesday 10 November 2020 06:30 GMT
File image: Mozambique’s army has admitted it is ill-equipped to tackle the Isis insurgency on its own 
File image: Mozambique’s army has admitted it is ill-equipped to tackle the Isis insurgency on its own  (AFP/Getty)

Islamist militants have beheaded more than 50 people in a football ground in a village in northern Mozambique, according to local media reports.

The attack was carried out by an Isis-linked group in the village of Muatide in conflict-ridden Cabo Delgado province, and spanned several days.

A Mozambique news agency said the attackers set fire to several villages and gathered together people they had captured from nearby forests on a single football pitch, where the victims were then decapitated and their bodies chopped to pieces, while women from the villages were abducted.

The gas-rich northern Mozambique region has witnessed several brutal attacks involving killings by the Isis-affiliated local group known as Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamo, or simply al-Shabaab locally, though they have no relation to the better-known Somali group.

In another attack in April 2020, 52 people were either shot or beheaded after they refused to join the militants’ ranks, while in March the militants burnt government buildings including a police headquarters in an attack that left dozens of law enforcement officials dead.  

In May 2018, at least 10 people were beheaded in two villages in northern Mozambique that are close to their border with Tanzania.  

The militants have targeted isolated villages over the past months as they try to exert greater influence in the region, as a result of which thousands of people have fled.  

According to a BBC report, Mozambique's government has already sought international help in training its troops to control the insurgency.  

“Heinous and horrific crimes in the name of faith and ideology. We must all unite to put an end to this totalitarian creed that is devoid of mercy and redemption,” tweeted human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

International lawyer and human rights activists Hillel Neuer also expressed dismay at the incident. “Fleeing villagers were caught, beheaded & chopped to pieces in an atrocity carried out from Friday night to Sunday. The UN Human Rights Council—which spent today criticising the USA—will say & do 0,” Neuer tweeted.

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