June 25, 2018 / 5:19 PM / a month ago

Machete-wielding attackers will be neutralised, says Mozambican leader

MAPUTO (Reuters) - Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said on Monday that those responsible for deadly attacks in the north of country where gangs wielding machetes have attacked police and religious leaders will be “neutralised”.

FILE PHOTO: Mozambique President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi addresses the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S. September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Violence first broke out in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado last October, with local residents reporting gangs attacking police stations, torching villages and executing religious leaders.

“We will not rest until these perpetrators are neutralised and held accountable, so our Defence and Security Forces are on the ground, firm and relentless,” said Nyusi in a statement.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week estimated that at least 39 people had been killed and more than 1,000 displaced since May. The United States and Britain have advised their citizens to steer clear of the area.

Nyusi said some alleged members of these groups had already been captured by security forces but he did not provide further details.

U.S. petroleum company Anadarko Petroleum is beginning to develop a $15 billion liquefied natural gas project in the region and has placed staff under “lock-down” in the area.

Six men wielding machetes killed at least seven people and injured four others this month in the predominantly Muslim region.

Ten people were beheaded last month, and local media reported at least two were children.

Mozambique has not been a focal point of Islamist militant activity in the past and police have been reluctant to ascribe the attacks to Islamists.

About 30 percent of Mozambique’s 30 million people are Roman Catholics; about 18 percent are Muslim.

Reporting by Manuel Mucari; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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