Rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report published Tuesday, that Islamist militants in Mozambique have abducted hundreds of women and children over the past three years.
HRW said at least 600 women and girls were kidnapped in northern Mozambique since 2018 by an armed group linked to the “Islamic State” (IS) as the East African country battles a brutal insurgency.
An allegedly IS-affiliated militant group, locally known in Mozambique as al-Shabab, kidnapped the women and girls during raids on towns and villages, the report said. The group has no known connection to the group with a similar name in Somalia.
The group coerces young women and girls to “marry” its fighters, “who enslave and sexually abuse them,” according to HRW. The report said some have also been sold off to foreign militants for between $600 and $1,800 (€533-€1,599).
Some of those abducted were freed by Mozambican and foreign forces deployed this year to help stop the violence spread across the region since October 2017. However, some remain missing, according to HRW.
“An unknown number of women and girls remain in captivity in Mozambique, facing horrific abuses daily, including enslavement and rape by Al-Shabab fighters,” said Mausi Segun, HRW’s Africa director.
HRW said its report was based on investigations that included interviews with former abductees or their relatives, security sources and government officials.
Plagued by insurgency
Mozambique has been struggling to contain the insurgency in the gas-rich northern region of the country since 2017. Over 3,100 African, European and US soldiers have been deployed to the Cabo Delgado province since July to battle the unrest.
Attacks targeting remote villages have killed hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians. US-based conflict tracking organization ACLED said the unrest claimed at least 3,578 lives, including 1,575 civilians.
At least 800,000 people have been displaced, according to government and UN agencies.
The UN Office for Emergency Relief (OCHA) estimates that over 1.5 million people have been affected by the turmoil and that nearly $390 million (€346 million) will be needed to assist them.