The Daesh terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the violent attacks in Mozambique's Nampula province, where at least six people were beheaded and an 83-year-old Italian nun was shot dead.

Some 3,100 troops from several African countries were deployed in northern Cabo Delgado province last year and retook control over much of the territory.
Some 3,100 troops from several African countries were deployed in northern Cabo Delgado province last year and retook control over much of the territory. (Reuters Archive)

At least six people have been beheaded and an Italian nun killed by Daesh-linked terrorists in Mozambique's Nampula province, authorities have said.

Speaking on Wednesday in the resort town of Xai Xai north of the capital Maputo, President Filipe Nyusi said the terrorists unleashed a killing spree as they fled from soldiers from Mozambique, Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) sent to tackle the violence.

"On the 6th of September, as a result of terrorist attacks, six citizens were beheaded, three kidnapped, six terrorists were captured and dozens of houses torched in the districts of Erati and Memba, Nampula province," Nyusi said.

According to media reports, confirmed by Nampula province secretary of state Mety Gondola, 83-year-old Italian nun Maria De Coppi, who lived in the city of Nacala, was shot in the attack, while two others missionaries managed to escape.

De Coppi's religious order, the Comboni Missionary Sisters, said assailants had killed De Coppi as they entered the nuns' quarters at the mission in Mozambique's northern Nacala diocese.

"The mission of Chipene...was attacked by terrorists," the order said in a statement.

"They killed a sister...destroyed and set fire to the church, the house of the Sisters, the hospital and the mission's cars."

Two priests also managed to flee, their Italian diocese said.

The Portuguese News agency Lusa said the nun, who was shot in the head, belonged to the order of the Comboni Missionary Sisters and had been working in Mozambique since 1963. 

Daesh claims responsibility 

Mozambique's restive north has suffered a spate of attacks since 2017.

But the Nampula region where the mission is located had so far been spared the worst of the violence, which has focused on the neighbouring gas-rich Cabo Delgado province.

"This is an area that was regarded as relatively safe up to this point," said Piers Pigou, a senior consultant for Southern Africa at Crisis Group, a think tank.

The Daesh terror group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement that its terrorists "killed four Christians, including an Italian nun" in northern Mozambique.

Analysts said the incident fits a recent pattern that has seen terrorists linked to the group stage incursions further south since the launch of a regional military mission in Cabo Delgado - in a likely attempt to stretch security forces.

"They now have to operate in a much larger territory and I think that's what the game is about," said Eric Morier-Genoud an African history expert at Queen’s University in Belfast.

The conflict watchdog ACLED says more than 4,100 people have been killed in Mozambique since 2017. Hundreds of thousands more have been displaced, the United Nations says.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies