In the Mozambique region, Cabo Delgado, in Palma – a town of 75,000 people plys large numbers of internally displaced due to the worsening violence in the province - scores of unarmed civilians were left dead and many executed by beheadings. The culprits were members of Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, known locally as al-Shabab although it has no links to the armed group of the same name in Somalia, which began launching banditry attacks in northern Mozambique back in 2017. It pledges allegiance to ISIL (ISIS). The escalating violence has killed more than 2,600 people, half of them civilians, forcing almost 700,000 people to flee and become refugees. The conflict entered a particularly gruesome phase last year, prompting United Nations chief Antonio Guterres to express shock at reports of massacres, including the beheading and kidnapping of women and children.
Locally based journalist, Fernando Lima, a political commentator, said there were “serious doubts if this is really a religious confrontation, or a cover” for social grievances in a region where poverty and unemployment are still rampant despite the promises of wealth linked to the development of the multibillion-dollar worth gas projects.
“I think that the main problem is in fact poverty and inequality,” he said.
Mozambique's government have hired foreign mercenaries via Dyck Advisory Group (DAG), a South African private military firm.
Amnesty International accused all factions, the guerrilla fighters, government security forces and private military companies of “war crimes”.
Jasmine Opperman, of the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, explained that "...this is an area where there is simply no governance, where there is no ability to control anything.” She also pointed out a certain amount of international hypocrisy. "What is interesting about the Palma incident, and that is the tragedy of Cabo Delgado, is when expats get targeted, everyone goes crazy. What about the people that had to flee and find a home somewhere quite quickly, or safety quite quickly? I think it’s a sad case but we cannot neglect in terms of Cabo Delgado.”