MAPUTO– The Mozambican defence and security forces have captured three alleged members of the terrorist group which has been burning villages and murdering villagers in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.

According to Radio Mozambique, Interior Minister Basilio Monteiro announced the Friday night arrests at a meeting with residents of Namaluco village in Quissanga district in the province on Saturday. The village was attacked on Wednesday night and seven people were killed and 220 houses were destroyed.

Monteiro said that two of the terrorists were arrested on Ibo island, and the third in Olumbi in Palma district in the ame province. The report did not indicate how the men were identified, or suggest why two of them had left the mainland.

In his meeting with the Namaluco residents, Monteiro pledged that the government would work to ensure that no more villages are attacked.

What we want to do is ensure that no more villages are burnt down. What we want to do is ensure that no more people suffer violence. We are sure we will succeed because we are counting on your collaboration, he added.

The Minister may have come too late as most of the villagers had already abandoned Namaluco, and the few who were in Monteiro’s audience said they too felt unsafe and intended to leave the area.

Monteiro urged them to stay, and promised them better security. We will not stop sending soldiers here. Our duty, as a State, is to place policemen and soldiers to protect the population, he told the villagers.

He also pledged that, as from Sunday, members of the defence and security forces would help the people of the attacked villages to rebuild their homes.

Monteiro has also set up an operational command, headed by high ranking officers, to take control of the situation in Quissanga and the neighbouring district of Macomia. This operational command began its work as from zero hours on Saturday, said Monteiro, and its purpose is to restore order and normality.

The decision to form this special command, he added, arose from an analysis of the situation on the ground, in which some lines of weakness were identified.

He promised a relentless pursuit of the terrorists, who are referred to locally as al-Shabaab, although the authorities remain reluctant to refer to them as Islamic extremists.