A group of insurgents left behind a trail of destruction as they moved west across Macomia from Nkoe to Chicomo towards Meluco on Friday and Saturday, beheading several civilians and burning down numerous houses along the way.
Local reports claim that a group of insurgents beheaded at least two people in the area between Nkoe and Nova Zambézia in the western half of Macomia district on Friday 20 May. One local source told Zitamar that insurgents had been circulating around the area since 19 May and as many as six may have been beheaded in the fields.
On Monday 23 May, Islamic State (IS) social media published a message claiming responsibility for attacking Nkoe and killing four government soldiers, although this claim has not been verified by other sources.
The next morning at around 6am, the insurgents were observed in the fields around Nguida, approximately 10km south of Nkoe. According to a security consultant report seen by Zitamar several more civilians were beheaded but the number is not yet known. On 24 May, IS social media published another message, claiming to have killed three civilians with machine guns in Nguida.
At around 16:00 on 21 May, insurgents were reported to have arrived in the village of Chicomo, about 7km southwest of Nguida. Multiple sources attest to insurgents systematically burning down houses and other buildings in the village. NASA FIRMS, which detects active fires using satellite observations, reports a number of fires within the village on the night of 21 May. The number of casualties, if any, has not been confirmed. IS claimed responsibility for this incident too on 24 May, writing that insurgents killed one civilian, burned down houses and looted the village.
According to a local source, families fleeing the attacks of May 20/21 were hidden in the forest. Another source was told by a relative in a nearby village that at least seven people are estimated to have died in the attacks.
Zitamar understands from a local source that a force of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) deployed to Chicomo on May 22 or 23 but were forced to retreat as the insurgents were too great in number. At the time of publication, the insurgents are still believed to be at large and it is speculated they may be heading to the Minhanha zone of Meluco district, possibly to escape the Rwandan Defence Forces, who have been deployed in Macomia since the beginning of April.
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.