Mozambique leader vows to hunt down jihadist attackers

Maputo (AFP) –


Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi vowed Wednesday to hunt down and unmask attackers involved in a string of deadly assaults that have battered the country's northern region and killed least 250 people.

For nearly two years, suspected Islamists have staged raids on remote communities in the gas-rich, Muslim-majority Cabo Delgado province, torching homes and sometimes even beheading civilians.

The identity of the militants remains unclear and their motives unknown.

"We will fight and hunt them," Nyusi told lawmakers during an address.

"So far they have never showed their faces, but the security forces are hunting and fighting them relentlessly," Nyusi said.

"We hope that the arrests in recent weeks will help us discover who they are," he said without specifying when the arrests occurred or the numbers of suspects detained.

A senior police source in the northern province confirmed there had been recent arrests but refused to give details.

The attorney general late last year said at least 400 suspects had been arrested since the attacks began in October 2017.

But only a few dozen have been tried and convicted.

The Islamic State claimed involvement in three recent insurgent attacks, according to SITE Intelligence, an organisation that monitors extremist activity.

But analysts have expressed doubt over the claim while police have dismissed it.

Some experts attributed the violence in Cabo Delgado to a group known in Arabic as Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama -- although it is usually referred to as "Al-Shabaab" despite having no known link to the Somali jihadist group of the same name.

Its militants are reportedly seeking to impose Sharia law in the Muslim-majority province.