Photos: 2018 Human Rights Watch Residents of Naunde, in Macomia, Cabo Delgado, flee their village following an attack.

MALAWI needed to draw lessons from the insurgency that is going on in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado, according to security and political commentators.

Up to 39 people have been killed and hundreds are homeless in recent attacks by armed groups.

Hundreds more have fled their villages after attackers burned down their houses during nighttime attacks, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

It’s a development that should be causing concern not only to Malawi; warn the commentators, but neighbouring Tanzania which also shares a border with Mozambique.

One of these commentators is Mvula Phunziro, a former Malawi Defence Force, MDF veteran who retired from the army years ago.

He advises the authorities to tighten border controls and keep a close survey of the many foreigners who cross the border and settle in the country, some in the guise of refugees.

Others suggested that Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania could possibly exercise their joint military co-operation and call for specialist forces from the west- African based USA Africa Command Centre to assist before the incursion spills over into the neighbourhood.

The researchers of Human Rights Watch who visited the Mozambican village of Naunde, in Mucojo town, Macomia district after an attack on June 5 saw 164 houses, five cars, and scores of cattle burned.

The residents said the attackers had burned a local mosque, including copies of the Quran and prayer mats, and beheaded a local Islamic leader inside the mosque.


Some of the burned down houses

The wave of violence in Cabo Delgado province began in October 2017 with an attack on a string of police stations in the Mocimboa da Praia district, causing two days of lockdown in the area and a massive military response that led to the evacuation of villages.

Following the attack, authorities closed seven mosques and detained more than 300 people without charge, including religious leaders and foreigners suspected of having links to the armed attacks in Palma and Mocimboa da Praia districts, which are about 95 kilometers apart. But attacks on villages continued sporadically.

Army soldiers deployed to the town of Mucojo following the attack on the nearby village of Naunde told Human Rights Watch that since April, they had apprehended and handed over to the police more than 200 men suspected of having links to the armed Islamist group implicated in the attacks.

The soldiers said some of those detained were local young men who were found in makeshift camps in the bush with machetes and Islamic teaching books, but the men would not reveal their intentions or the names of their leaders, the soldiers said.

The most recent attack reported took place early on June 12 in the village of Nathuko, Quiterajo town, in the Macomia district.

Residents who spoke with Human Rights Watch by phone said that a group of six men with their faces covered arrived in the village carrying machetes just before 2 a.m. and without identifying themselves, started setting houses on fire with lighters.

They beheaded an elderly man and burned down at least 100 homes, according to a local government official.

Aisha, a resident of Naunde, said that on June 5, she woke up at 2 a.m. hearing gunshots and people screaming.



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