Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has opened up to the possibility of talks with Islamist insurgents in the northern province of Cabo Delgado – but not if they remain “faceless”.
The militants, locally known as al-Shabab – though not linked to the Somali militant group of the same name, have been carrying out sporadic attacks against security forces and civilians since 2017.
Little is known about the group, with its leadership preferring to remain anonymous, and become known for its decapitations of local villagers and fishermen.
The insurgents are estimated to have so far killed more than 200 people and burnt more than 600 houses in the gas-rich northern province.
President Nyusi expressed willingness to talk to them – if they show their faces – during an election rally in Cabo Delgado, the region hardest hit by the attacks.
The pledge is the first by his government as Mozambicans prepare to go to the polls on 15 October.
The group started its armed activities in October 2017 with attacks on police facilities in Cabo Delgado’s Mocimboa da Praia district.
Since then, the attacks have spread to other areas in of the province such as Macomia, Palma and Nangade.