Maputo: Suspected Islamists in northern Mozambique killed 16 people on Tuesday in their deadliest attack since launching an insurgency in the remote region in 2017, local sources told AFP on Friday.
Islamist fighters have targeted remote communities in the gas-rich, Muslim-majority Cabo Delgado region since October 2017, killing more than 200 people and forcing thousands from their homes.
A Mitsubishi truck was ambushed as it was carrying passengers and goods on a dirt road in the coastal district of Macomia, sources said.
Confirmation of the fatalities only emerged on Friday.
Attackers threw home-made explosives into the truck and then opened fire.
“Eight people were killed in the vehicle and another seven people were found dead at the scene, a sign that they tried to flee,” a local teacher, whose colleague was killed, said.
Another victim died a day after the attack, which was the first case of the insurgents using home-made explosives.
Among the dead were three soldiers deployed on the truck to protect it from attack, a community leader told AFP.
“They used homemade bombs. They did not give the military time to react. The group of attackers was at least seven men according to a survivor,” he said.
About 10 injured people were taken to hospital in Pemba by helicopter.
A month of bloodshed: The government and military do not comment on insurgency attacks.
An AFP record registered a total of 14 attacks in May, causing more than 40 deaths.
The insurgents regularly attack villages, kill local people and burn down houses despite a growing police and military presence in the area.
But the group’s identity and motives remain unclear.
“The country is falling victim and we all need to understand the real reasons,” President Filipe Nyusi said last week in a rare interview with the privately-owned Canal de Mocambique newspaper.
“The defence and security forces are putting their whole resources into this, so we can learn (the insurgents’) motivation and who these people are.”
Attacks have often forced the temporary closure of voting registration stations ahead of October elections, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a Maputo-based civil action group.
Lucrative gas fields off Cabo Delgado add an extra dimension to the insurgency as international exploration companies have been caught up in the violence.
The province was badly hit late last month by Cyclone Kenneth that left 45 dead and 250,000 people affected.