In Summary
  • In the coastal village of Naunde, seven people were hacked to death and 164 houses were set alight.

  • Two days later, extremists attacked Namaluco, 20 kilometres away, killing five.

MACOMIA

Until last week, Mozambique's northern district of Macomia was a remote and peaceful place, surrounded by dense tropical forests.

Today, that tranquility has been brutally shattered and replaced by fear and suspicion.

Macomia has become the latest target of a shadowy jihadist force that has terrorised the country's far north since last October, claiming more than 30 lives. 

In the coastal village of Naunde, seven people were hacked to death and 164 houses were set alight. Two days later, extremists attacked Namaluco, 20 kilometres away, killing five.

"We do not sleep. We stay up at night to defend ourselves," said a villager, a homemade bow-and-arrow in hand.

"If I hit an attacker with this arrow, he'll die immediately — the arrows are tipped with snake venom," he said, asking not to be named.

The people of Macomia are now living lives tainted by fear.

"It's hectic here. We don't know what to do," said Hassam Rabuna, a local leader of ruling party Frelimo.

Macomia is located in the predominantly Muslim province of Cabo Delgado, where more than 30 people have died in machete and knife attacks since October, including 10 who were beheaded.

Locals and authorities call the assailants Al-Shabaab, although the group has no known link to the notorious Somali Islamists of that name, nor has it issued any claim of responsibility or demands.

According to academic researchers, the group wants to impose Sharia law in the province.

It is believed the organisation staged its first attack on a police station and military outpost in the town of Mocimboa da Praia. Two officers died and 14 attackers were killed.

MUSLIMS

In the following weeks, at least 300 Muslims, including Tanzanians, were arrested, several mosques shuttered — and suspicion began to fall on the region like a leaden lid.

"It's our children who are carrying out these attacks," said a shop security guard in the area.

"They sold their houses and market stalls to move to the bush and start to kill innocent people. Someone promised them money."

Peasant farmers around Macomia district and its main town, which goes by the same name, have now begun to arm themselves with improvised weapons, including bows and arrows.

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