War crime in mozambique: 36 shots at defenseless woman

A video from Mozambique shows soldiers executing a defenseless woman while fighting Islamists.

In the video, men fire shots at a woman lying in the street, covered by the soldier (l.) Photo: social media via reuters

It is a clear war crime: On a country road, a group of four uniformed men chase a naked woman. They catch up with her, beat her with a stick. Finally they shoot her, 36 times. She remains lying lifeless. "We killed Shabaab," a soldier gloats.

The video comes from the war Mozambique’s army is waging against Islamist rebels – in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, where Mozambique is counting on developing giant natural gas reserves in the sea. The rebel movement Ansar al-Sunna is called "Shabaab" (Youth) in Mozambique, as it is in Somalia further north.

The war has left more than 1,500 dead and 250,000 displaced since 2017, and insurgents have held the port city of Micimboa da Praia since mid-August.

The government calls the execution video "terrorist propaganda." The human rights organization Amnesty International disagrees: it has authenticated the recording. According to it, it was made during a government offensive on the village of Awasse, 30 kilometers from Micimboa da Praia. The army suffered heavy casualties – 70 dead, including soldiers from Tanzania, the Islamists claimed. The footage was reportedly taken in front of the Awasse substation.

Amnesty had already accused Mozambique’s army last week of mock executions, cutting off ears and kicking shackled prisoners.

The video affair comes amid growing discord within the armed forces. The elite unit of the UIR anti-insurgency police is said to be unhappy because it receives less danger pay than the regular army.

Mozambique’s police chief, Bernardino Rafael, recently traveled to the embattled province of Cabo Delgado to meet with the UIR’s 6th Battalion in the capital, Pemba. "Defense has no price," he said.

Mozambique’s President Felipe Nyusi promised special payments for the fighting troops two months ago, but "parliament has not yet approved the money," said Deputy Finance Minister Carla Louveira.

A security expert warned the taz that the crisis in Mozambique resembles the start of the insurgency by the Islamist group Boko Haram in Nigeria in 2009. "More than a decade later, the crisis has spread, partly because of the demoralization of the Nigerian armed forces," he said. The crisis in Mozambique may take on similar proportions if discontent in the security forces persists."

And in Nigeria, too, the fight against terror goes hand in hand with crime.

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