A militant group operating in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado is “brutally” murdering and beheading children as young as 11 years, a global humanitarian organization for children said on Tuesday.
In a report, Save the Children said it had interviewed several displaced families who reported horrifying scenes of murder and grief.
Elsa, 28, said her eldest child, 12-year-old Filipe, was beheaded by the militants near a place she was hiding in with her other three children, but they remained quiet because they couldn’t save him.
“That night, our village was attacked and houses were burned. 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,” the distressed mother recalled.
The armed militant group, believed to be affiliated with the Daesh/ISIS terrorist group, has wreaked havoc in northern Mozambique since late 2017, killing hundreds, displacing communities, and capturing towns.
The group, locally known as al-Shabaab but with no established links to the armed militant group in Somalia, has exploited people’s desperation of poverty and unemployment to recruit in large numbers.
Amelia, a 29-year-old mother of four, said she was heartbroken when the militants murdered her 11-year-old son.
“After my son was killed, we understood that it was no longer safe to stay in my village. We fled to my father’s house in another village, but a few days later, the attacks started there too,” Amelia said, adding they had to flee again.
Save the Children said it is outraged and deeply saddened by reports that children are being targeted.
“Every child has the right to life and safety, and children must be protected under all circumstances, including war and armed conflicts,” it said.
“For the children who may have witnessed their siblings being murdered, their suffering could last for years. Many may experience anxiety and depression or even signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” it added.
Nearly 670,000 people are now displaced inside Mozambique due to the conflict in Cabo Delgado – almost seven times the number reported a year ago.
At least 2,614 people have died in the conflict, including 1,312 civilians.
Humanitarian agencies say the situation has seriously deteriorated over the past 12 months, with the escalation of attacks on villages.
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