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UN urges Mozambique to investigate murder, beheadings

In this file photo taken on March 07, 2018 soldiers from the Mozambican army patrol the streets in Mocimboa da Praia. (By AFP)

The United Nations has called on Mozambique to investigate reports that an armed group murdered villagers and beheaded women and children in a violence-wracked northern region.

As many as 50 people have died in recent days in attacks by militants linked to the Daesh terrorist group, local media reported.

Violence has surged this year in Cabo Delgado – a province that borders Tanzania and is the site of a multibillion-dollar natural gas project – alarming governments across southern Africa.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for an investigation in a statement late on Tuesday.

“The secretary-general is shocked over recent reports of massacres by non-state armed groups in several villages … including the reported beheading and kidnapping of women and children,” his spokesman said.

There was no immediate response from the government.

Security forces in Cabo Delgado have been fighting the armed group – which pledged allegiance to the Daesh terrorist group last year – since 2017.

The militants have seized key towns for brief periods and hit military targets this year.

The unrest has killed more than 2,000 people since 2017 – more than half of them civilians, according to the US-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

The violent attacks in Cabo Delgado have triggered a humanitarian crisis with more than 300,000 internally displaced people and 712,000 in need of humanitarian assistance, according to an Amnesty International report released last month.

In September, the UK-based rights group accused Mozambican soldiers of committing atrocities during a crackdown on violence, but the defense ministry dismissed the reports, saying fighters regularly impersonated soldiers.

W. Africa court fines Guinea for 2012 protest crackdown

Elsewhere in Africa, a West African court has found Guinea responsible for the killing of protesters in 2012 and ordered it to pay fines, according to documents seen by AFP Wednesday.

Guinea has six months to pay five billion Guinean francs ($510,000 / 430,000 euros) to each plaintiff for the six people killed in the crackdown, plus three billion francs each to 15 other victims.

The ruling, dated Tuesday, was made by the Community Court of Justice of ECOWAS -- the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States.

The case dates to bloodshed in August 2012, when people in the southeastern town of Zoghota began a protest against iron-ore miner Vale-BSGR, accusing it ethnic bias in its hiring policy.

Security forces arrived in the early hours of the following day, killing six demonstrators, the lawsuit said.

 In its defense, the state said it had found it "indispensable to secure the site" of the mine, and denied it had committed any rights violations.

 But the regional court concluded the state was responsible for "infringements on the right to live" as well as "torture, inhumane, cruel or degrading treatment" of protesters arrested following the crackdown.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs said the case had been brought to ECOWAS as Guinea's judicial authorities had shown "no intention" of following through on promises to investigate the attack.

After the ruling, attorney Pepe Antoine Lama told AFP that the fine was "insufficient to repair the harm" and noted that the perpetrators had never been prosecuted. "We continue to fight so that justice prevails one day," said Lama.

 Human rights groups say impunity is chronic in Guinea, a poor, mineral rich country with a long history of volatility.

President Alpha Conde, 82, was re-elected for a third term last month, despite protests that have left 130 dead since 2019, according to the opposition.

(Source: Agencies)

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