Thousands flee as Mozambique jihadists shift attacks
Nearly 4,000 Mozambicans have fled their villages in a month due to intensifying jihadist attacks in Niassa, a province neighbouring insurgency hotbed Cabo Delgado, a government official said Friday.
Militants terrorising the gas-rich northern Cabo Delgado province for the past four years have in recent weeks shifted their attacks to the west into Niassa.
“There are 3,803 displaced so far. These are people who fled from areas targeted by attacks in Mecula district,” Felismino Patricio, a government spokesman in Niassa province, told AFP by phone.
The latest displacements add to the more than 820,000 that have fled the insurgency in Cabo Delgado since 2017.
Niassa province has since the end of November become the latest target for militants being driven from Cabo Delgado by African troops.
Since July more than 3,000 soldiers have been deployed from Rwanda and the 16-nation Southern African Development Community to help the beleaguered Mozambican army smoke out the militants.
Jihadists launched their first raid in Mecula district in Niassa province in late November. They have since staged sporadic attacks on several other villages, claiming around two dozen lives.
The displaced have sought shelter in Mecula town, where they are housed at government schools or move in with relatives and friends.
“Every day people are arriving from the villages fleeing the attacks,” a resident in Mecula town told AFP on the phone, asking not to be named.
Regina Atanasio, 30, hurriedly quit her village in Lichengue on December 15 after jihadist attacks.
“They started attacking the village at 6:00 pm and then my husband and I fled with our children,” she said by phone.
A police inspector was killed and dozens of people were kidnapped during an attack on December 23, according to the local government.
Another villager said women were kidnapped in the last known raid on Monday in Alassima village, around five kilometres from Mecula town.