MAPUTO– The Mozambican defence and security forces have killed eight suspects, believed to be members of a group of Islamic militants, known locally as al-Shabaab, which has been spreading terror in parts of the northern province of Cabo Delgado, media reports here say.

The clash took place last Wednesday near 25th June village, in Palma district. This was one of the two villages attacked by the islamists the previous Sunday night. During those raids, ten villagers were beheaded.

Official sources declined to comment about the latest clashes, but individual members of the defence forces who spoke to the STV independent television station confirmed that eight presumed islamists had been killed. At the site of the clash, the defence forces found one AK-47 assault rifle, several machetes, a Tanzanian passport, and assorted foodstuffs.

Eye-witnesses provided more details about the previous weekend’s atrocities. According to a report in the latest issue of the independent weekly, Savana, the first people murdered were two teenagers from 25th June village, aged 15 and 16, who were seized by the militants while they were out hunting.

A man told the paper: The boys left home early on Saturday morning, and had not returned by the end of the day. This worried their families who asked neighbours for help. But as it was already night, they could do nothing further. They had to wait until dawn and then they were found dead.”

A further three adults were found, beheaded and their bodies thrown into the bush.

That same Sunday, the militants attacked the nearby village of Monjane. The raiders arrived when most of the Muslim residents of the village were praying in the local mosque, after breaking the Ramadan fast.

Five people who were not praying were seized by the jihadists and beheaded.

Other villagers who were not at the mosque fled and alerted a unit of the defence and security forces to what had happened.

Meanwhile, the Cabo Delgado provincial authorities have allowed the re-opening of three mosques closed at the end of 2017 because they were believed to be linked to the Islamic militants. These mosques were in the Chuiba and Alto Gingone neighbourhoods of the town of Montepuez.