Aid agency, Save the Children, has reported that Islamist militants with links to ISIS are beheading children as young as 11 in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado.
According to the agency, one mum said she had to watch as her 12-year-old son was killed close to where she was hiding with her other children.
More than 2,500 people have been killed and 700,000 ran from their homes since an Islamist insurgency by militants linked to the Islamic State (IS) group started in Mozambique began operating in 2017.
In its report, Save the Children said it had spoken to displaced families who reported gruesome acts meted out to their kids.
One mother, who withheld her name to protect her identity, said her eldest child had been beheaded near where she and her other children were hiding.
“That night our village was attacked and houses were burned,” she said.
“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.”
Another woman said her son had been killed by militants while she and her other three children ran away.
“After my 11-year-old son was killed, we understood that it was no longer safe to stay in my village,” she said.
“We fled to my father’s house in another village, but a few days later the attacks started there too.”
Chance Briggs, Save the Children’s country director in Mozambique, has released a statement addressing the reports of attacks on children.
“Our staff have been brought to tears when hearing the stories of suffering told by mothers in displacement camps,” he said.
Trying to explain why the insurgency in Mozambique continues to happen, Briggs said;
“Mozambique is the eighth poorest country in the world. Cabo Delgado is the poorest province in Mozambique and yet there’s tremendous mineral resources there and there’s a sense by some that the resources are not being shared equally so that seems to be a driver of the conflict,” he said.
“But frankly speaking there’s no manifesto and so it’s hard to understand the exact motivations but what we see is that the insurgents are trying to drive people out. They co-opt young people in to joining them as conscripts and if they refuse they are killed and sometimes beheaded. They chase people away. It’s really hard to see what is the end game.”
The United Nations reacting to the report, described the militants’ actions as “cruel beyond words”.
The insurgents locally known as Al-Shabab, has rarely given any indication about its motive, leadership or demands.
In a video last year, one militant leader said: “We occupy [the towns] to show that the government of the day is unfair. It humiliates the poor and gives the profit to the bosses.”