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Last Tuesday (25-01), a police post in the city of Xai-Xai was robbed, the thieves successfully making off with weapons and ammunition. The incident has sparked concern among residents at a time when northern Mozambique is fighting terrorism.
Resident Carlos Mhula is afraid that the modus operandi that precipitated terrorism in Cabo Delgado is being tested in other provinces of the country.
“I am concerned about the scenario in Cabo Delgado, how it started, what difference in security and control it has with the [situation] in Cabo Delgado. Terrorism takes many forms, and the management of weapons in Mozambique leaves much to be desired. On the street, we encounter a meagre police presence – in terms of physical strength – armed with AK47s. With a simple surprise attack, he might leave his weapon on the ground, the criminals for the taking,” he worries.
Silence from the authorities
In the attack on the first precinct police station in Xai-Xai, two policemen were reportedly subdued by at least two armed men. According to reports, the attackers took two firearms – an AK47 and a pistol, as well as magazines containing more than 50 rounds of ammunition.
Police spokesman Carlos Macuácua confirmed that the police post was the target of a robbery, but refused to record an interview on the matter, saying that the police would only speak to the press after the investigation.
But José Alcino, another citizen interviewed by DW, says the authorities’ silence on the matter is only making people more apprehensive.
“It is worrying, this lack of communication between our police and the public. There is no justification for a police station being robbed and the population being told nothing – only that ‘we are working’. It’s a feeling of total distrust in the protection [of citizens], and we can only hope that the police very quickly come to the public to say what has happened and what is being done,” he comments.
Who was behind the heist?
The questions that people are asking are how this robbery was possible, and who may have been behind it.
Lázaro Mabunda, a journalist and researcher, says one hypothesis is that the culprits were young people who had completed their mandatory military service but were not reintegrated into society. “The people who carried out that type of robbery are people who have military training: they know how to neutralize an armed person,” he says.
Another possible reason, Mabunda says, may be poor training of the police officers themselves. “Everyone wants to join the police,” he explains, “because that’s where there is massive recruitment. Today, to join the police, you have to pay 50,000 meticais minimum [about €700.00]. There must be criminals infiltrating the police; it is they who are probably the protagonists in these robberies.’
Whatever the reason, Mabunda says, one thing is certain – that it is necessary to improve the PRM recruitment process and the response of its agents, so that robberies like this do not happen again.