Amnesty Says Mozambique Insurgents, Army Commit War Crimes

Insurgents, security forces and a private military company contracted by the government have killed hundreds of civilians in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province, according to Amnesty International.

“The people of Cabo Delgado are caught between the Mozambican security forces, the private militia fighting alongside the government and the armed opposition group locally known as ‘al-Shabaab’ -- none of which respect their right to life, or the rules of war,” Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s regional director for east and southern Africa, said in a statement on the organization’s website on Tuesday. “All three have committed war crimes, causing the deaths of hundreds of civilians.”

The report, based on interviews with scores of people displaced by the violence, focuses primarily on the impact of increased fighting in Cabo Delgado since a major attack by the insurgents on Mocímboa da Praia in March 2020.

The insurgency, which began in the natural gas-rich region in October 2017, has left more than 2,500 people dead and forced an estimated 668,000 others to flee their homes. At the turn of the year, Total SE suspended onshore work on a $20 billion project to export the fuel after attacks close to its site.

The insurgents don’t have any known connections to the Somali group with a similar name. In 2018, it pledged allegiance to rival Islamist group Islamic State, which has claimed dozens of their attacks. However, the strength of links between the Mozambican militia and Islamic State is a “matter for debate,” according to the report.

Abductions, Beheadings

Amnesty accused the insurgents of brutal violence, including beheadings and kidnapping teenage girls who are forced into marriage. Boys as young as 15 years are abducted to become soldiers, it said. Mozambique’s armed forces committed extra-judicial killings and failed to protect civilians, often stripping off uniforms and fleeing with civilians when attacked, according to the report.

Dyck Advisory Group, the private military company hired to support government troops, fired indiscriminately into crowds or dropped ordnance from helicopters without distinguishing between combatants and civilians, Amnesty said.

DAG is sending a legal team to Cabo Delgado to investigate the allegations, according to founder Lionel Dyck. “I don’t believe they’ve looked at it at all accurately,” he said of the group’s findings.

Defense ministry spokesman Custodio Massingue declined to comment and referred queries to the interior ministry, which didn’t immediately respond. Police spokesman Orlando Mudumane also declined to comment. Amnesty requested a response from the Mozambique government on Feb. 5 and was yet to receive a reply, the organization said in the report.

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