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10/03/2021 Mozambique (International Christian Concern) – Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on Wednesday that an ISIS linked group in northern Mozambique is kidnapping children to use as child soldiers.

“The armed group, known locally as Al-Shabab, has abducted hundreds of boys, some as young as 12, trained them in bases across Cabo Delgado province, and forced them to fight alongside adults against government forces,” said HRW.  “In the town of Palma, parents said that they watched their sons wield guns when they returned with other fighters to raid their village.

HRW retrieved several first-hand accounts of the atrocities being committed by the ISIS linked group. The agency spoke by phone with four of the parents of kidnapped children, a former child soldier, two local witnesses, and several women who had escaped from Al-Shabab.

“We joined many other men and boys and were trained on how to use guns and knives to fight,” a former child soldier told HRW. “They told us that we had to kill and fight for our land and to protect our religion, which is under attack in Mozambique.”

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 gang and the wealthy businessmen 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.

2021 was the first year that Open Doors listed Mozambique as one of the worst countries in the world to be a Christian. Pemba is the capital of the Cabo Delgado province, the country’s most violent region that has seen believers killed in staggering numbers at the hands of extremists, with thousands of others kidnapped or forced to flee. 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. We also ask that you pray for those who persecute the church, that they will be blessed with knowing the truth of the gospel and accept Jesus’s love for them.

For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: press@persecution.org.