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03/17/2021 Mozambique  (International Christian Concern) – Save the Children staff report being “sickened to our core” while listening to mothers recall stories of their children, as young as 11 years old, being beheaded by insurgents in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province.

“That night, our village was attacked, and houses were burned.” One mother told staff, “When it all started, I was at home with my four children. We tried to escape to the woods, but they took my eldest son and beheaded him. We couldn’t do anything because we would be killed too.”  

Over the past three years, an insurgency has been rising in Northern Mozambique which has left over 2,500 people dead and 700,000 forced to flee. Though this fight started as a local struggle between a local gang and the wealthy business men and government who were taking the region’s natural resources, it has become an international crisis. The rebel group has now been claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and is receiving aid from outside the country’s borders. The government responded slowly to the growing threat and allowed the rebel group, locally known as al-Shabab, though not affiliated with the Somali group, to gain a foothold in the region.

“While the world was focused on covid-19, the Cabo Delgado crisis ballooned but has been grossly overlooked,” Stated Chance Briggs, Save the Children’s Country Director in Mozambique. In a separate article, Briggs told BBC news that it is difficult to determine the exact motives of the terrorist group: “They co-opt young people in to joining them as conscripts and if they refuse they are killed and sometimes beheaded. It’s really hard to see what is the end game.”

In a video last year, one group leader spoke about Islam and his desire for an “Islamic government, not a government of unbelievers”, while also complaining of abuses by Mozambique’s military. “Observers say the evolution of the insurgency in Mozambique is remarkably similar to Boko Haram’s emergence in northern Nigeria”, wrote BBC News, “with a marginalized group exploiting local grievances, terrorizing many communities, but also offering an alternative path for unemployed youths frustrated by a corrupt, neglectful and heavy-handed state.” 

Last week the Biden administration deemed the Mozambique insurgency a “foreign terrorist organization”.  The U.S. embassy in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, made a statement on Monday informing the public that U.S. military specialists are being sent to the country to train Mozambican marines for the next two months in an attempt “to prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism”.

2021 was the first year that Open Doors listed Mozambique as one of the worst countries to be a Christian. We ask that you join us in praying for the Lord to bring peace to Mozambique, to strengthen the governments protection over its people, and to heal the trauma that thousands have had to endure.

For interviews please contact Alison Garcia at [email protected]