Mozambique insurgents kill Italian nun in attack on mission station

Mozambique insurgents kill Italian nun in attack on mission station
Sister Maria de Coppi of the Comboni Missionary Sisters was killed an attack on her mission station in Chipene village, Nampula, Mozambique. (Photo: Twitter / @paolodecoppi)

The killing of a nun in Mozambique has raised concerns that the Islamic State-linked insurgency is now taking hold in a new province — Nampula.

Islamic State-linked insurgents killed an Italian nun in an attack on her mission station in Chipene village, in Nampula province, northern Mozambique on Tuesday night, a security source said.

Sister Maria de Coppi of the Comboni Missionary Sisters had been in Mozambique since 1963. Two other nuns, one Italian and one Spanish, and two priests managed to escape, with locals.

The insurgents, believed to be from the extremist Islamist group  Ahlu-Sunna Waljama’a (ASWJ), raided the mission at about 9pm on Tuesday, killed De Coppi (83), and torched the mission’s church, the nuns’ homes, the hospital and its equipment.

There are also unconfirmed reports that two other people were killed in the attack and that other infrastructure in the area was destroyed.

The source said mission authorities were trying to get the survivors evacuated from the area with the help of the Italian Foreign Ministry’s crisis unit. The two Comboni nuns were reported to have fled into the forest with a group of girls who had also been at the mission.

Another Catholic body, the Centro Missionario Concordia Pordenone, reported that two of its priests serving at the mission, Loris Vignandel and Lorenzo Barro, also managed to get away.

Insurgency spreads south and west

The security source expressed particular concern that the attack had taken place so far south. Most ASWJ violence so far has been in Cabo Delgado, the province immediately north of Nampula. But recently the insurgency has begun spreading south and west — probably to avoid southern African and Rwandan troops who have been attacking the insurgents in Cabo Delgado.

The source also said it was worrying that the Chipene attack had occurred only 23km from Pavala in the same Memba district, which had been attacked just hours before. “It’s hard to understand how troops were not stationed there or the area flooded by security forces,” the source said. 

He said that this was the fourth insurgent attack in Nampula province in the past two weeks, indicating that ASWJ was establishing a strong presence in the province. 

“Prior to the recent offensives, the last reports of insurgent activities in Nampula were in June with a reported attack in Mothopo village and claims of attempts to recruit locals into the movement.”

He added that the spate of attacks was likely to prompt Mozambican security forces and perhaps also those from Samim — the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique — and Rwanda to move south into Nampula to counter the new threat. 

ASWJ claims allegiance to the global jihadist terror group Islamic State, which also claims credit for many of its attacks in Mozambique. 

The total number of deaths from the insurgency, which began in October 2017, passed 4,000 in July this year, according to Cabo Ligado, the Mozambique conflict observatory. DM


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