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A woman, called Elsa by UK-based aid group Save the Children, stands with her family in a displacement camp in the northern Mozambique province of Cabo Delgado A woman, called Elsa by UK-based aid group Save the Children, stands with her family in a displacement camp in the northern Mozambique province of Cabo Delgado 

Mozambique: Children as young as 11 beheaded by insurgents

A new Save the Children statement reveals shocking crimes perpetrated towards children in Mozambique, including the beheading of children as young as 11 in the country’s norther Cabo Delgado.

By Francesca Merlo

“Children as young as 11 are being beheaded in the Mozambique province of Cabo Delgado as conflict continues to displace thousands.” The Save the Children statement, released on the Save the Children website notes that the children’s agency recently spoke to displaced families “who reported the horrifying scenes of murder and grief and the loss of loved ones”.  

Elsa's story

One mother told the agency she had to watch as her 12-year-old son was killed in this way close to where she was hiding with her other three children.

Using pseudonyms, Save the Children quotes the mother, Elsa, as recounting: “that night our village was attacked and houses were burned. 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.”

4 years of conflict

Nearly 700,000 people are now displaced inside Mozambique due to an Islamist insurgency that began in 2017 in Cabo Delgado. The militants are linked to the so-called Islamic State. Since 2017, more than 2,500 people have been killed.

In search of safety

Another woman said her son had been killed by militants while she and her other three children had been forced to flee.

"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."


The insurgents are known locally as Al-Shabab, although they have no known links to the Somali jihadi group of the same name.

They have publicly sworn allegiance to the Islamic State. IS says it has carried out a number of attacks in Mozambique, though the group has rarely given any indication about its motive, leadership or demands.

The Pope and Mozambique

Pope Francis donated $121,000 to support the victims of terrorist attacks in Mozambique's northern province of Cabo Delgado on Monday, December 6. The funds were given in response to the Bishop of Pemba, Luis Fernando Lisboa’s appeal for assistance to the insurgency victims who were displaced from their homes due to the recent attacks by the Islamist militants.

After his Sunday Angelus on 24 August, Pope Francis referred to the suffering in Cabo Delgado. The Pope briefly recalled his visit to Mozambique in August 2019, praying for the many people in Cabo Delgado who are suffering “due to international terrorism.”

16 March 2021, 13:02