JUST IN - Mozambique: 'Considerable number' of fighters shot in Cabo Delgado | Government
FILE: Pemba port, Cabo Delgado Province. [File photo: DW]
“SERNIC is at work” is the Mozambique Police’s repeated response to questions about the arrest on the high seas whose images have gone viral on social media. Who could those arrested be? The answer may surface only after SERNIC’s investigation in the province.
In Mozambique, photos and videos of alleged Iranian citizens being arrested by Mozambican forces off the coast of Pemba circulated on social media this weekend. One of the videos shows the authorities on a boat trying to intercept the craft, which in turn carried on, apparently unimpressed by the siege. A subsequent video shows the boat on fire after being abandoned. In a further image , we see the boat’s occupants detained and sitting in a motorboat flanked by Mozambican forces.
This Monday (16.12), the Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM) confirmed the authenticity of the images and the operation to DW Africa, but as usual provided no further details claiming that the case is still under investigation by SERNIC, Mozambique’s Criminal Investigation Services.
The incident took place in a region which has, since October 2017, been the scene of armed attacks by individuals so far not properly identified, though supposedly radical Islamists. DW Africa interviewed PRM spokesman in Cabo Delgado, Augusto Guta, about the operation.
DW Africa: Can you confirm the authenticity of the images circulating on social networks?
Augusto Guta (AG): This is an operation the forces carried out, culminating in the explosion of the vessel, but at present not much can be advanced, because the National Criminal Investigation Services are working to establish all the facts which contributed to that incident. What is known is that in that boat there were people and it was possible to rescue 12 of them, who are in good health. We are currently working on getting more complete information on what happened there.
DW Africa: And was the boat set on fire or was there an explosion?
AG: We cannot say anything right now, as I said, because our information is still incomplete. SERNIC is still working, and then they will give us a full report of what happened – whether the boat was set alight and why or if it exploded. SERNIC is working on that right now, we would do like to comment on ongoing investigations.
DW Africa: There is a suspicion that these individuals are involved in drug trafficking, or that they may be linked to armed attacks in northern Mozambique, in the delivery of weapons. Is there any evidence of this already verified by the police?
AG: As I have said, we can say nothing now because SERNIC is still working on the case. Only once SERNIC has finished the work they are currently doing will we know if these people are normal citizens or if they are involved in the kind of thing you are talking about. But right now, SERNIC is working to give us the basis to talk properly. Right now, we don’t have much information.
DW Africa: Do they speak Portuguese?
DW Africa: And in which region of Cabo Delgado province were they found?
AG: In the city of Pemba.
DW Africa: Were these people detained in the course of a routine patrol or in the context of a tip off?
AG: This is a job that SERNIC and the forces have been working on for a long time. And that is why I say that I do not have much to tell you, because SERNIC has not yet passed on enough information for the police to comment. All we know is that this has happened in the city of Pemba, and that SERNIC is currently working on addressing all the suspicions that are being raised.
DW Africa: Was there any resistance from these individuals when approached by the police?
AG: As I said, SERNIC is still working and has not yet given us enough information to comment on that. All we know is that that operation took place and 12 people were rescued, and are currently in police custody.
DW Africa: They are Iranians, aren’t they?
AG: They are said to be Iranian, but SERNIC has not yet given us enough information to comment on that.
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