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Police release suspected insurgents after alleged torture ordeal

Military sources claim to have used torture to obtain a confession from 15 suspected insurgents, who have now been released

Fifteen people who arrived in Pemba and were initially suspected of being members of the insurgency active in Cabo Delgado have been released by the police, Zitamar has learned — but may have been tortured first.

Maputo-based online newspaper Carta de Moçambique reported on Wednesday morning that the 15 had confessed to arriving in Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado, on Tuesday morning in order to carry out a reconnaissance mission for the insurgency. The confession was obtained by torture, Carta said, citing military sources. It was unclear, given the confession, what the fate of the 15 would be.

The story was apparently linked to a recording that started circulating on messaging apps and social media on Tuesday afternoon, of a woman describing how 15 men had been “well tortured” by the police — including being bitten by large dogs — after arriving in Pemba by boat. She said the men had confessed to a plan to enter Pemba, and that they were a reconnaissance team for the insurgents.

Two sources told Zitamar on Wednesday, however, that the 15 had been released after the police ascertained that they were innocent people who arrived by boat in Pemba seeking refuge from the conflict happening further north in the province.

The police spokesman in Cabo Delgado, Augusto Guta, promised to return a call from Zitamar News on Wednesday afternoon. The national police spokesman, Orlando Mudumane, did not answer a call from Zitamar.

Mozambique’s security and defence forces have been repeatedly accused of human rights violations against people in Cabo Delgado whom they suspect of being linked to the insurgency.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Portuguese commentator Nuno Rogeiro claimed on social media that Mozambique had submitted evidence to the United Nations to prove that recent videos supposedly showing human rights abuses by Mozambique’s government forces were fake. A source close to the Mozambican government told Zitamar that Rogeiro’s claim is not true. Zitamar is seeking official confirmation from the Mozambique government and the UN at the time of publication.

This article was produced by Zitamar and Mediafax under the Cabo Ligado project, in collaboration with ACLED and with support from Crisis Group. The contents of the article are the sole responsibility of Zitamar News.