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Catholic Charities Report Massive Exodus in Mozambican Villages amid Heightened Attacks

Credit: ACN

Several villages in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province have been “completely destroyed” leaving locals terrified and scurrying for safety in neighboring towns, sources have told Catholic entities, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Portugal and Denis Hurley Peace Institute (DHPI).

ACN Portugal has reported that insurgents attacked eight villages in the embattled province between February 20 and February 22, leaving more than a dozen deaths and the destruction of several homes.

A missionary who spoke to the Pontifical charity foundation said that people in the villages and their surrounding areas have been left terrified.

“There have been attacks in villages, the situation is not well and everyone is terrified,” the missionary who asked not to be identified for security reasons said in the Wednesday, February 23 ACN Portugal report.

The missionary also informed ACN Portugal of reported fighting between terrorists and military forces present in the region of Nangade, which is located close to the country’s border with Tanzania.

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Sources told the charity foundation that on February 20, insurgents attacked the villages of Kankhomba, Janguane, Mambo Bado and Muhia, and on February 22, the villages of Milola, Chianga, Lutona, Napuatakala were also attacked.

“As a result of these attacks, the populations fled and have sought shelter in the village of Nangade, which, due to its size, apparently guarantees some security,” the Catholic missionary told ACN Portugal.

The missionary said it is not yet possible to determine the exact number of people who have died as a result of the terrorist attacks. 

“He (the missionary) speaks of a scenario of great destruction that justifies the fear that has settled among the populations,” ACN Portugal has reported.

“I don't have a precise death toll, for now nobody knows, but there were villages where houses were burned and they were big villages, populated, places where a lot of machamba (farming) is done... and in fact they (the terrorists) went through and burned a lot of houses,” the missionary told ACN Portugal.

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The Catholic missionary confirmed to the foundation that there was an atmosphere of unrest in the Nangade area.

“The village headquarters is very agitated because all around there are movements of people from the terrorist group and the military fighting. These days, everything is very hectic not only around Nangade but also in the surrounding villages,” the missionary said.

In a Thursday, February 24 report shared with ACI Africa, DHPI said that additional information that the peace entity of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) had received indicated that five villages were completely burned down in the Nangade District on the evening of February 20. 

The SACBC peace entity further reported, “In Pemba, on 21 February 2022, the CARE office was assaulted in the early hours of the morning by a group reported to be between 7 and 8 men armed with machetes.”

DHPI reported that one guard who was hurt in the attack had been taken to hospital and allowed to go home after treatment.

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“Two of the annex offices and the main office were entered and several valuable items were stolen; laptops, a desktop, tablets and a phone,” DHPI said. 

A source told DHPI that following the attacks, there has been “a new population flight to the village of Nangade, district office, in search of security.”

“Here in the village everything is full of people, while others are passing to Mueda or Pemba,” the source who declined to be named told the SACBC peace entity. 

ACN Portugal has reported a response from Mozambican military forces that are carrying out several operations throughout the province of Cabo Delgado with the support of army units from Rwanda and countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

During these operations, according to information released by the Mozambican Defense Forces, seven terrorists were killed and 16 hideouts that they had in the bush were dismantled, as well as a communications base.

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“These military operations have also taken place in recent days in the district of Palma, also located in the border region with Tanzania,” ACN Portugal has reported.

Earlier this month, the ACN reported a situation of strong tension in the village of Macomia, also located in Cabo Delgado Province, where, according to a woman Religious, many villages had been attacked, and there was also “the systematic kidnapping of people, mainly women and mothers with their own children,” which was contributing to the worsening feeling of insecurity among the local populations.

ACN Portugal reported that since the armed attacks began in October 2017, more than three thousand people have died.

“As a direct consequence of the terrorist violence, there are about 800,000 internally displaced persons,” the charity foundation reported, and added, “This whole situation has made Mozambique a priority country for the ACN Foundation on the African continent, especially when it comes to supporting refugees.”

ACN International is providing pastoral assistance and psychosocial support to displaced people who have witnessed the horrors of insurgency in Cabo Delgado.

The charity foundation is also supplying materials for the construction of dozens of houses, community centers and also the purchase of vehicles for the missionaries working in the resettlement centers that shelter families fleeing the war.

DHPI, on the other hand, has set up a humanitarian desk in the Catholic Archdiocese of Nampula to co-ordinate support of the thousands of displaced persons who are seeking refuge in the Mozambican Archdiocese and to research on the five-year conflict.