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 refers to the woman as ‘al-Shabaab’ – a local term for an Islamist rebel group that has been operating in the northern 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 uprising.
Reuters was able to confirm the location of the video by comparing landmarks with those visible in satellite images taken in June 2020. These include three trees side by side, poles in the ground, a path connected by the road and two white buildings , one with a blue roof.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the date of the footage or who the perpetrators were. Amnesty International said it had probably been filmed on September 7, citing sources.
The Mozambican army, which was involved in a fight with rebels in the province, which is also home to gas projects developed by oil companies such as Total, said it considered the images shocking and horrific and “above all condemnatory”
“The FDS (Defense and Security Forces) reiterates that they do not agree with any barbaric act that supports the violation of human rights,” it said in a statement, calling for an investigation into the authenticity of the video.
It did not specifically deny that government troops were responsible.
Following an escalation in the uprising that saw the capture of the port city of Mocimboa da Praia in August, and the reaction of security forces, reports and videos of battles or other military abuses have become more and more common.
Amnesty International said most of the men who shot the woman 36 times were wearing full Mozambique army uniforms.
It quoted a local military source as saying they killed her because she had enchanted the army and refused to show them the hiding place of the rebels.
Last week, the rights group said it had verified videos showing attempts at beheading, torture, splitting of alleged opposition fighters and possible extrajudicial executions.
The government denied the allegations, saying rebels regularly mimicked soldiers.
Zenaida Machado, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, called for an investigation and said that such actions, if committed by soldiers, sowed distrust of the population and strengthened the rebels.
Afraid people should not run from rebels to only be in danger from those who should protect them, she said.
Reporting by Manuel Mucari in Maputo, George Sargent in Kent, England, Nazanine Moshiri in Nairobi and Emma Rumney in Johannesburg; Writing by Emma Rumney; Editing Angus MacSwan