MAPUTO– An Islamist group which has been active in parts of the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado since last October launched three raids against villages there over the past weekend, according to media reports in Maputo Tuesday.

The epicentre of the insurgency is the district of Mocimboa da Praia where the first attacks against police premises occurred on Oct 5, last year. Last Friday the terrorist group returned to Mocimboa da Praia, attacking the village of Diaca Velha, near the border with Nangade district, the news-sheet Mediafax reported.

The attackers stole food and other goods, and killed a number of people but the report did not say how many csualties.

On Saturday, the islamists attacked Mangwaza village in Palma district, where they killed one person, burnt down four houses and stole more food.

On Sunday, the group returned to Diaca Velha, and the local population abandoned their homes, fleeing to the nearby village of Awassi. Three people are missing, believed to have been kidnapped by the raiders.

These attacks happened within a week of President Filipe Nyusi’s working visit to Cabo Delgado.

Mozambican police have neither confirmed nor denied the weekend attacks. The spokesperson for the General Command of the police, Inacio Dina, asked for time to obtain information from Cabo Delgado.

However, Mediafax said the security forces in Cabo Delgado launched pursuit operations on Sunday, and captured 30 people believed to be members of the jihadist group.

About a week ago the Cabo Delgado provincial attorney’s office remitted to the provincial court the case against 234 people arrested after the earlier attacks, 32 of whom are Tanzanian nationals. They are accused of crimes, including first degree murder, mercenarism and illegal possession and use of firearms.

The prosecution says that none of the accused give clear motives for their actions, and will not say who ordered the attacks.

The group is known locally as al-Shabaab, although it does not seem to have any formal connection with the Somalia-based terrorist organization of that name.

The Muslim leadership in Cabo Delgado is aware of, and alarmed by, the presence of the extremists. Orthodox Muslim clerics tried to warn the authorities of the danger, but until October last year such warnings were not taken seriously.