South African accused in Mozambique jihadist case ‘innocent’
The man, 60-year-old Andre Mayer Hanekom who runs a maritime business in the northern town of Palma, was arrested in August.
He was named by prosecutors on Monday as one of the leaders of a jihadist group operating in the country’s gas-rich north, alongside two Tanzanian nationals and two locals.
For more than a year, Mozambique has been rocked by an Islamist insurgency in the northern coastal province of Cabo Delgado, which has rich offshore gas deposits. Despite a crackdown, scores of civilians and police have been killed.
But Hanekom’s wife Francis on Saturday dismissed the allegations against him, insisting he had “nothing to do” with any jihadist groups.
“It is nonsense,” she told AFP by phone, saying charges against him had been trumped up by the authorities. “He is not interested in politics.”
Court papers released on Monday named Hanekom as one of five leaders of a group which had carried out several attacks, in which he was allegedly responsible for logistics, along with the payment of monthly salaries and the provision of medicines.
At a search of his home in November, investigators had found machetes, arrows and gunpowder, the documents said.
But Francis Hanekom insisted machetes were a normal item in every home in Mozambique, where the couple has lived for 30 years, and said the so-called “gunpowder” had likely come from flares on the couple’s boat.
“Someone is being accused of terrorism and police wait three months to investigate his home?” she said.
According to the charge sheet, all of the suspects, except Hanekom, had “confessed that the group intends with their armed actions to create instability and prevent the exploitation of natural gas in Palma, and later create an independent state … (in) the northern region of Cabo Delgado and the south of …Tanzania”.
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