MAPUTO � Islamic fundamentalists murdered seven people in a pre-dawn raid on Tuesday against the village of Naude, in Macomia district, in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, the Mozambican police say.

The spokesperson for the General Command of the police, Inacio Dina, confirmed the attack at a media briefing here later Tuesday. In addition to the seven known deaths, the Islamist militants injured four other people, burnt down 164 houses and set four vehicles ablaze during the attack.

Dina said the police believe the attackers are part of the same group who beheaded ten people in Palma district of the same province on May 27. Nine people believed to be part of this unit of militants died in clashes with the defence and security forces on Friday near the boundary between Palma and Mocimboa da Praia districts.

Dina said the latest attack was the work of six people, who have already been identified by police, and who are natives of Macomia. He claimed they are remnants of the group involved in the Friday clashes.

The raiders, who surprised the villagers of Naude, used machetes to kill and maim their victims. They used a cigarette lighter to set huts on fire, and a strong wind spread the fires rapidly.

These people may be part of the group the police have been chasing since the events of 27 May,” said Dina. After the beheadings of that day, the police had launched a manhunt. In the pursuit, we realise this group may have switched to Naude,” Dina said.

There has been no arrest so far, but Dina insisted that the defence and security forces are working on the ground to detain the criminals and restore order throughout Macomia.

The work of the defence and security forces is to pursue this group, to hunt them down so that they can be held responsible for the crimes they have committed,” said Dina. The crimes they could be charged with, he added, include first degree murder, causing grievous bodily harm, and arson.

The islamists, known locally as Al-Shabaab — but without any known connection with the Islamist militant group of that name operating in Somalia — began their insurgency in northern Mozambique on Oct 5 last year, with attacks on police installations in Mocimboa da Praia district. Mocimboa da Praia has been the epidentre of jihadist activity, but the raids have spilled into the neighbouring districts of Palma, Nangade and Macomia.