Islamist militants have attacked several villages in Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique in the past few days, beheading more than 50 people, state media and police said on Monday.
“They set the houses on fire and then hunted down people who had fled into the woods and began their macabre action,” a police officer told a press conference. Witnesses told local media that the militants had driven residents of one village onto a football pitch before murdering them there.
The militants also reportedly abducted women and children.
Years long insurgency
Cabo Delgado province has been in the grips of a rebellion for around three years, fueled by perceived neglect of the region by the national government. Islamist rebels linked to the “Islamic State” group have been exploiting the unrest, carrying out brutal attacks and recruiting disillusioned youth as they try to establish an Islamic caliphate in the region.
In April, the militants shot dead and beheaded more than 50 youths when they allegedly refused to join them.
Human rights groups say government security forces have also committed massive human rights violations in the province as they try to put down the rebellion.