ISIL attackers behead 50 people in Mozambique as Africa’s extremist threat grows

By | Rachel Brooks

November 10, 2020 

 “old&new churches, northern Mozambique” by krugergirl26 is licensed under CC BY 2.0. 

Mozambique witnessed a bloody ISIL onslaught as militant Islamists behead over 50 people Mozambique. The exact number of execution victims was not clear at the time of this report. The attack was reported by the BBC.  What was once a football pitch, became the ground for mass execution. The group of militants is directly linked to ISIL and their presence in Mozambique gives the group a foothold now in Africa’s southern region. The recent attacks were in the gas-rich Cabo Delgado province. ISIL has passed that way before, with bloody attacks reported from the locale since 2017. Up to 2,000 people have been reported killed by the BBC. 


The BBC reports that people who attempted to flee the scene were captured and executed. Footage shows the insurgents approaching the area. They have informal gear, with one even carrying a purple school backpack. 

BBC cites the privately-owned Pinnacle News as a source for the events in the football pitch of Cabo Delgado. Pinnacle News reported that the atrocities against the civilians in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado were carried out from Friday to Sunday of this week. In addition to beheadings, the corpses of the deceased were mutilated by the militants, “hacked to pieces” as was reported by Pinnacle News. 

Locals of the Cabo Delgado province have told the press that Islamic militants benefit from the natural wealth of the region, generated from ruby and gas trade. 

A similar attack to the one of November 2020 occurred in April 2020. In that attack, more than 50 people were likewise beheaded and were also shot. 

Over the last month, BBC televisions have captured atrocities against civilians and human rights abuses that, while they did not trend to mass numbers, sent shockwaves through the world. In September, the BBC showed footage of a naked woman being shot to death by four armed men. The woman was chased and beaten before she was shot with at least 36 rounds. The BBC and fellow researchers used online technology and determined that this occurred in a region of northern Mozambique. This particular event took place in greater Oasse, Mozambique, as was determined by satellite images that were honed in on billboards. Satellite analysis of the scene was provided by Planet Labs Inc.  

The date was determined by analyzing the shadows cast by the militants. The shadow angle suggested April or September. The video appeared in early September, and because it was known that Mozambican troops were local at this time, launching their major offensive against insurgents, it was believed that this event took place in early September. The theory of a September date was also supported by the dry and dead grass more common in the September season than in April. 


Analysis of the footage suggests, based on an empty road which appears in the broadcast, that the woman on the screen was left behind as other civilians fled the scene. Researchers from Amnesty analyzed the uniforms of the armed men and determined that they were members of Mozambican armed forces, who had accused the woman of belonging to Al Shabaab. The accents of the shooters were also analyzed to support the theory that they were government soldiers. The accents and the dialect, Portuguese, were analyzed by Human Rights Watch and it was theorized that they were most likely government soldiers. Analysts from Human Rights Watch have determined that the Islamic insurgency factions of this region speak Swahili, Arabic, Macau, or Macondis.  

Local media likewise reported a possible suspect, a rogue soldier who may have since been killed in the fighting. The Mozambique government offered a mixed response, promising an investigation, but likewise stating that the footage may be fake. 

If fake, the Mozambique government then suggests it could have been the work of insurgents who were disguised in the gear of Mozambican forces. Insurgents have recently looted military supplies as the savage conflict continues. This, however, would not explain the reason behind the dialect variation heard on the video. 


The footage of the shot to death woman suggests civilians are caught in the crossfire of both ISIL attackers and government response to them. The BBC suggested that like footage has become a common occurrence out of Mozambique as insurgents and soldiers alike have filmed their assault upon civilians as a means of celebrity and advertisement. Footage that has emerged has shown men in uniforms hacking living people who are lying in mass graves. Some of the footage, put out by insurgents, is to recruit insurgents to the Islamic state. 

Human Rights Watch interviewed the people on the scene in the Mozambican struggle. Civilians feel abandoned by the government forces, who they believe is solely concerned with protecting the ruby and gas trade. Human Rights Watch believes this will increase the distrust from local people that will make communication between civilians and government forces virtually impossible and severely complicate the terms of victory against insurgents.