Insurgents attacked Meluco district for the tenth time this month on Thursday around 6pm, beheading one man in a field near Mitambo village in the administrative post of Muaguide, central Cabo Delgado province.
The man’s wife and child escaped, a farmer in Mitambo told Zitamar, adding the family was hiding when the attackers ambushed them.
A group of insurgents had warned people in Nangororo, which is about 25km east from Mitambo and closer to Macomia’s district capital, the day before on Wednesday that they would return to attack again.
Their warning made many leave voluntarily.
People travelling on the N380 road between the provincial capital, Pemba and Macomia on Thursday saw families during the day with luggage heading on foot to the Nivico area.
A helicopter was seen circling, searching for the insurgents near Nangororo on Thursday.
Zitamar’s source said it also fired on a school where insurgents were thought to be hiding.
Classrooms were destroyed in the offensive, but it remains unknown if insurgents were indeed there and whether any were killed.
Nangororo was the second village in Meluco district to be attacked this year on Sunday 2 January. The other villages targeted include Mitepo, 1 de Maio, Citate, Pitolha, Mariria and Imbada, with the latter two being attacked twice.
Communities in Meluco district said that at least 12 fighters had been involved in the nine previous attacks, Mediafax reported on Monday.
Six are known to be from Meluco. One of them has since been captured, and one shot.
Villagers seeking safety at the district’s headquarters are living in fear over the increasing incidence and recurrence of insurgent attacks.
The displaced who first fled from their villages to the district capital don’t want to stay but Mozambique’s security and defence forces (FDS), who are stationed there, have imposed an exit ban.
“There is a military blockade 15km away on the way to Montepuez, before reaching the village,” said a local source, explaining it was part of ongoing efforts to prevent the population from leaving, as well as to ensure that episodes of robberies and occupation of villages are not repeated in Meluco district.
Despite the ban on leaving Meluco’s headquarters, Mediafax reported that many people have managed to get out.
Some of these arrived in Metuge district, in the south of the province and close to the provincial capital, Pemba.
There were already 212 families who had managed to reach Metuge by 5pm last Friday, fleeing a situation that they said was dangerous.
Of the 212 families that had arrived, about only 36 had tents. When asked what about the rest, the source said, “They spend their nights in the classrooms.”
The Cabo Ligado project reported last Thursday how the 2022 attacks, “appear more focused than previous efforts,” explaining: “The direction of the attacks – westward along a road that eventually leads to Montepuez – does not suggest an attempt to threaten the site of major government military power. Instead, the Meluco offensive appears to be an attempt to gather resources while further spreading pro-government forces.”
Meluco’s locals also believe that the insurgents preying on them now are the ones that were chased from their bases in Macomia district during the heavy fighting reported in the third week of December by forces with the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM).
To the allied forces, the people of Meluco have a message: “Renew our confidence, like the Rwandans do.”
This article was produced by Zitamar and Mediafax under the Cabo Ligado project, in collaboration with ACLED. The contents of the article are the sole responsibility of Zitamar News.