Mozambican militants are beheading children instilling fear in the north of the country, a British charity group reported on Tuesday.
Save the Children says children as young as 11 years old have been targeted by the terrorist group.
Without disclosing figures, Save the Children—which opened programmes in Mozambique in 1986 at the height of the civil war—said in a statement that it recently spoke to displaced families who reported horrifying scenes of murder, grief and the loss of loved ones.
“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 of the residents is quoted in the statement.
“Reports of attacks on children sicken us to our core. Our staff have been brought to tears when hearing the stories of suffering told by mothers in displacement camps,” the NGO quoted Chance Briggs, its country director, as saying.
“This violence has to stop, and displaced families need to be supported as they find their bearings and recover from the trauma.”
Last November, there were news reports that more than 50 people were beheaded in northern Mozambique.
Last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) documented that armed groups had been randomly targeting local villages and terrorising the local population.
“Those fleeing speak of killings, maiming, and torture, burnt homes, destroyed crops and shops. We have reports of beheadings, kidnappings and disappearances of women and children,” the UNHCR said.
Mozambique is facing an insurgency in northern Cabo Delgado province, that borders Tanzania.
The northern province has a population of 1,893,156 spread over its 77,867-km² and 16 districts.
The attacks began in October 2017 on police stations in Mocimboa da Praia District, then spread to other districts in the northern part of Cabo Delgado, notably in Macomia, Palma and Nangade.
According to Unicef, approximately 250,000 children in Cabo Delagado province have been displaced.