12 killed as jihadists attack village in north Mozambique

Maputo (AFP) –


Twelve villagers were killed and 14 injured in an attack by suspected jihadists on a village in a gas-rich region of northern Mozambique, a local source told AFP on Friday.

Since October, government plans to exploit the country's gas reserves have been thrown into doubt by an explosion of bloodthirsty assaults in the region where the industry plans to base its hub.

"Ten people were shot (dead) by firearms and two burnt (to death)," the source said of the violence which took place late Thursday in Paqueue village which lies close to the Quirimbas tourist archipelago.

One of the shooting victims had also been beheaded and the attackers had burnt 55 houses, the source said.

Medics said another 14 people were wounded in the attack.

In a separate incident further north, gunmen attacked a military convoy near the Tanzanian border on Thursday night, killing a senior army officer, a police source said.

"The attackers wore military uniforms and had large-calibre firearms," the source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Since October, more than 40 people have been killed in brazen machete and gun assaults on unarmed villagers in the coastal region.

- Terrified locals -

Security forces have rushed reinforcements to the area yet seem powerless to stem the attacks. Terrorised, many civilians have fled their homes and a cloud hangs over the great expansion plans.

The region has been relatively quiet in recent months but the latest attacks will raise fears that the nascent insurgency has regrouped.

Locals and authorities call the assailants Al-Shabaab, although the group has no known link to the notorious Somali Islamists of that name, nor has it issued any claim of responsibility or demands.

According to academic researchers, the group wants to impose Sharia law in the Muslim-majority province.

The attackers are believed to have staged their first attack on a police station and military outpost in the northern town of Mocimboa da Praia in October 2017. Two officers died and 14 attackers were killed.

In the following weeks, at least 300 Muslims were arrested, some of them Tanzanians, and several mosques shuttered -- and then suspicion began to fall on the region's residents.

After 180 trillion cubic feet (5.1 trillion cubic metres) of natural gas were discovered off its northeastern shores, Mozambique entertained dreams of following Qatar down the path towards prosperity.

The government even predicted that by 2035, GDP per head could increase sevenfold.