MAPUTO (Reuters) – The Mozambican army has condemned the apparent execution of a naked woman by men wearing military uniforms, shown in video footage, where she is beaten with a stick before being shot in the back as she tries to flee.
In the footage, circulated on Monday, the group refer to the woman as ‘al-Shabaab’ – a local term for an Islamist insurgent group that has been operating in the north of the country since 2017.
One of the uniformed men hits her in the head and body with a stick before others shoot and, they say in the video, kill her on the side of the road.
It was filmed in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, where soldiers are fighting an Islamist insurgency.
Reuters was able to verify the location of the video by comparing landmarks to those visible in satellite imagery taken in June 2020. These include three trees side-by side, posts in the ground, a path connected to the road and two white buildings, one with a blue roof.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the date of the footage, or who the perpetrators were. Amnesty International said it was likely to have been filmed on Sept. 7, citing sources.
The Mozambican army, engaged in a battle with insurgents in the province which is also home to gas projects being developed by oil majors such as Total, said it considered the images shocking and horrifying, and “above all condemnable”.
“The FDS (Defence and Security Forces) reiterate that they do not agree with any barbaric act that substantiates the violation of human rights,” it said in a statement, calling for an investigation into the video’s authenticity.
It did not specifically deny that government troops were responsible.
After an escalation in the insurgency, which saw the capture of the port town of Mocimboa da Praia in August, and the security forces’ response, reports and videos of beatings or other army abuses have become increasingly common.
Amnesty International said most of the men, who shot the woman 36 times, were wearing full Mozambique army uniform.
It cited a local military source as saying they killed her because she had cast a spell on the army, and refused to show them the insurgents’ hideout.
Last week, the rights group said it had verified videos showing attempted beheadings, torture, the dismemberment of alleged opposition fighters and possible extrajudicial executions.
The government dismissed the allegations, saying insurgents regularly impersonated soldiers.
Zenaida Machado, researcher for Human Rights Watch, called for an investigation and said such acts, if committed by soldiers, sowed distrust in the population and strengthened the insurgents.
Frightened people should not run from insurgents only to find themselves in danger from those supposed to keep them safe, she said.