AFRICA/MOZAMBIQUE - More than 67,000 people fleeing jihadist violence in the north of the country

Thursday, 7 March 2024 jihadists   displaced persons   bishops  

Maputo (Agenzia Fides) - A total of 67,321 people have been displaced in recent weeks by armed attacks in the province of Cabo Delgado, in northern Mozambique. This was announced by Filimão Suaze, spokesman for the government in Maputo, adding that the displaced people have fled to other parts of Cabo Delgado province and to the Eráti district in Nampula province and "have found refuge in reception centers or with relatives." At the moment we are talking about 67,321 displaced people, which corresponds to 14,217 families," he specified. Meanwhile, nearly 100,000 people were displaced between early February and early March after Islamic State of Mozambique militants launched a new offensive in the central and southern coastal region of Cabo Delgado, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. According to the government spokesman, some people who had previously fled managed to return to their villages. However, the Bishop of Pemba, António Juliasse Ferreira Sandramo, said in a statement to the Portuguese news agency "Lusa" that "the security conditions are not yet in place for the displaced people throughout the Mazeze region to allow them to return to their old lives." . “If the displaced people return, it is obvious that the missionaries, the religious, will also return, because they are at the service of the people,” emphasized the Bishop in this context. The population is particularly fleeing the violence of the jihadist fighters of the group "Ansar al-Sunna", also called "Ahlu Sunna Wal Jammah", which is linked to the Islamic State and also known as Shabaab (although it apparently has no connection to its Somali counterparts Shabaab militias). Despite the strong jihadist influence, according to Bishop Sandramo, the "Shabaab" also targets Muslims indiscriminately. "The rhetoric of these groups is consistent with that of the Islamic State, to which they say they belong," and that is why "we are not as concerned as if they were fighting against Catholics," said the bishop, for whom poverty and social exclusion are the main factors that lead young people to join the jihadists. “Ansar al-Sunna” proves that it has increasingly stronger and more effective military capabilities. On March 2, they led an attack with 500 fighters in Quissanga district against a Mozambican Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR) position defended by only 40 soldiers. The elite Mozambican army unit was forced to flee. The soldiers said the jihadist group consisted of about 500 men, as well as women and children, for a total of around 700 people. The women and children were used as human shields to prevent the soldiers from shooting at the jihadists. The jihadists were also equipped with sophisticated weapons. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 7/3/2024)