Children as young as 11 are being beheaded in the Mozambique province of Cabo Delgado, Save the Children said, as conflict continues to displace thousands.
“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,” One mother, Elsa, 28, spoke of her eldest child, Filipe, 12, being beheaded near to where she was hiding with her other three children.
The insurgents who beheaded the children are known locally as al-Shabab, which means The Youth in Arabic. This reflects that it receives its support mostly from young unemployed people in the predominantly Muslim region of Cabo Delgado. Al-Shabab is an insurgent group formed in the early 2000s, that seeks to establish an Islamic state across East Africa.
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.The situation has seriously deteriorated over the past 12 months, with the escalation of attacks on villages.
Cabo Delgado is also still reeling from consecutive climatic shocks, including 2019’s Cyclone Kenneth, the strongest cyclone to hit the northern part of Mozambique, and massive floods in early 2020.