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File photo / “When a person picks up a gun, goes onto the streets and starts shooting, and steals goats and grain, that’s not an attack”, Dina claimed.
The General Command of the Mozambican police on Tuesday declined to confirm the occurrence of three further attacks by islamic fundamentalists in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
The usually well-informed newsheet “Mediafax” had reported the attacks, two of which took place in Mocimboa da Praia district and one in the neighbouring district of Palma.
Mocimboa da Praia has been the epicentre of the islamist insurgency. It was here that the first attacks, against three police units, occured on 5 October last year.
“Mediafax” said that last Friday the terrorist group returned to Mocimboa da Praia, attacking the village of Diaca Velha. The attackers stole food and other goods, and killed an unspecified number of people.
On Saturday, the islamists attacked Mangwaza village in Palma district, where they killed one person, burnt down four houses and stole more food. On Sunday, the group returned to Diaca Velha, and the local population abandoned their homes, fleeing to the nearby village of Awassi.
But at his weekly press briefing, the spokesperson for the General Command, Inacio Dina, dismissed these reports. “Yes, there have been criminal cases in Mocimboa da Praia”, he said, “but these are not attacks similar to those that occurred on 5 October”.
“We want to make it clear that Cabo Delgado is a province like any other”, said Dina. “Criminal cases happen. In Cabo Delgado criminal cases happened. Public order has been completely restored”.
“When somebody commits a crime with a firearm, we have to understand his motives, before we call it an attack”, he added. Dina was thus trying to restrict the term “attack” for events involving large numbers of raiders and with police units as the target.
He insisted that the events of the weekend could not be compared with what had happened in October. “When a person picks up a gun, goes onto the streets and starts shooting, and steals goats and grain, that’s not an attack”, Dina claimed.
Wednesday’s issue of “Mediafax” accused Dina of simply resorting to a linguistic artifice, and rebranding the islamist raids as isolated criminal acts.