At least seven people have been killed in recent jihadist-related violence in northern Mozambique, local sources said on Tuesday, as the United Nations said 10,000 people fled their homes.
The attacks took place in gas-rich Cabo Delgado province, where jihadists launched a bloody insurgency in 2017, sparking a regional military mission last year that restored a sense of security.
Four people were beheaded in the remote village of Natupile, terrified residents told AFP.
“The people at Netupile took the pictures, so we know it happened,” Antonio Kalimuka told AFP by telephone.
“I’ve already left with my family, but I haven’t harvested my fields yet. I’ll have to come back once it’s safe.”
Suspected jihadists killed two workers at the Australian-owned graphite mine, Triton Minerals, last Wednesday, the company said.
“Two of our security personnel/caretaker personnel were seriously injured,” the statement said.
The next day, South African regional military forces attacked the rebels in a forest in Macomia District, north of the provincial capital Pemba.
“Terrorists were killed and others seriously injured during the joint operation,” the mission said in a statement.
It said the armed forces suffered one death and six injuries.
Meanwhile the United Nations estimated that 10,000 people had fled their homes in the past week.
The total number of displaced persons varies from month to month, but was estimated by the United Nations refugee agency in May at more than 730,000.
The United States on Tuesday announced $29.5 million in aid to Mozambique through the United Nations’ World Food Program, as diplomat Victoria Nuland visited the country.
British charity Save the Children said in a statement: “The displaced people witnessed the killings, beheadings, rapes, burning of houses and kidnappings and reported kidnappings of several boys.”
It said that more than 80% of those forced to flee their homes are women and children.
According to conflict watchdog ACLED, more than 4,000 people have been killed in Mozambique since 2017.
Some 3,100 troops from several African countries deployed to Cabo Delgado last June and took control of much of the area.
Diplomatic and humanitarian officials say the rebels have since split into three groups.
One of them carried out several attacks in Macomia this month, forcing aid groups to limit their operations.
The unrest has forced the halt of a $20 billion gas project by France’s TotalEnergies, an investment that was symbolic of Mozambique’s dreams of using its mineral wealth to lift the country out of poverty.