MAPUTO, The Mozambican police have given a group of Islamist insurgents in Mocimboa da Praia district in the northern province of Cabo Delgado seven days to surrender.

Speaking to a rally in Mocimboa da Praia town on Thursday, the general commander of the police, Bernadino Rafael, warned that those who do not turn themselves in would be hunted down as terrorists while those who hand over their weapons would be granted an amnesty.

A group of Islamic fundamentalists took the authorities by surprise on Oct 5 with a simultaneous attack on three police facilities in Mocimboa da Praia. Local residents, including orthodox Muslim leaders, say they had warned the authorities about the group, but no preventive measures were taken.

The group is often called Al-Shabaab but seems to have no direct connection with the Somali terrorist group of that name.

Since Oct 5, there have been sporadic attacks by members of the group, and some of the villages affected have been deserted, with their residents fleeing to Mocimboa town.

The police say they have detained 251 suspects. Most of them are Mozambicans, but 37 are Tanzanian citizens.

At Thursday’s rally, Rafael presented one of the Tanzanians, a young man speaking Swahili, who claimed that he had come to Mozambique at the invitation of a friend. He’s a carpenter and he invited me to come and work here. When I arrived, he took me into the bush. I couldn’t take it and I ran away. During my escape, I was stopped by the police and detained, the main said.