Dozens survive deadly shipwreck off Mozambique coast

Jose Tembe

BBC News, Maputo

A map showing the location of the bay of Pemba in Cabo Delgado province, northern Mozambique.

There are reports from northern Mozambique that 12 people have died, including several children, when a boat sank in the bay of Pemba.

Thirty-five people survived after swimming ashore on Wednesday.

But they were then apprehended by the police on suspicion that they could be recruits to an Islamist militant group that has been mounting attacks in Cabo Delgado province.

A new report by the UN says displacement of Mozambique's civilian population has risen rapidly in recent months as the jihadists have stepped up their attacks.

More than 200,000 people - most of them women and children - have been forced to flee their homes since the insurgency began in 2017.

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A third of Mozambique's prison inmates 'shouldn't be there'

Jose Tembe

BBC News, Maputo

More than a third of the inmates in Mozambique’s prisons should no longer be incarcerated, the country’s justice minister has said.

Helena Kida has revealed that, out of a total number of 16,000 prisoners, about 6,000 have been waiting for their trials for more than the legal maximum limit of four months. Given that, they should be released.

In a lengthy interview broadcast on the publicly-owned channel Mozambique Television, Ms Kida added that many of those who are serving sentences should qualify for conditional release.

Yet they remain in the country’s overcrowded jails, which in theory only have space for 8,000 people.

The situation used to be considerably worse. Recently there were around 21,000 prisoners but the number was cut thanks to the presidential pardon in April for prisoners serving short sentences.

Nonetheless, the prisons remain grossly overcrowded and this is seen as a serious threat to the inmates’ health and lives, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is also very expensive. Caring for 16,000 prisoners costs the Mozambican state about $162,000 (£129,000) a day.

The justice minister said work was being done to speed the judicial process up.

Mozambique Covid-19 patients 'threatened with lynching'

Jose Tembe

BBC News, Maputo

Health officials in Mozambique say there's growing discrimination against people suspected of being infected with coronavirus.

In the central city of Beira, there are reports that those infected have been threatened with lynching.

This led to a fall in the number of people going to clinics to report flu-like systems.

Health workers are trying to convince communities to seek medical help when needed.

The hostility towards people suspected of having the virus has led the health ministry to restrict the amount of information it releases about the disease, including not disclosing locations where cases have been confirmed.

People wearing masks in Maputo
Getty Images
More and more people have been seen wearing masks

Tanzanian jihadists 'killed' in Mozambique offensive

Jose Tembe

BBC News, Maputo

a main road in Macomia in Mozambique
Getty Images
Macomia is a strategic town in Mozambique's northern Cabo Delgado province

Mozambique's government says 78 Islamist insurgents have been killed in fighting with the security forces over the past few days.

The army launched an offensive after the jihadists seized Macomia in the north of the country, the third town to be overrun by the militants in recent months.

Defence Minister Jaime Neto said two ringleaders were killed, both of them Tanzanians.

There has been no word so far on civilian or military deaths.

The militants, known locally as al-Shabab, have killed hundreds of people since they launched their insurgency three years ago.

It is not clear whether it has any links to the Somali group of the same name, but recent attacks have been claimed by the Islamic State group.

Earlier this year two towns - Mocimboa da Praia and Quissanga - were temporarily seized by militants.

Mozambique's leader: Heavy fighting with jihadists

Will Ross

Africa editor, BBC World Service

Street in Macomia
Macomia is on the main road that connects the north and south of Cabo Delgado province

Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi has said government forces engaged in extensive fighting against Islamist militants who overran a town in the north of the country on Thursday.

It's the first time the government has acknowledged the attack on Macomia - the third town to be seized by jihadists in recent months.

Mr Nyusi said some Islamist commanders had been killed in the fighting, but this has not been independently verified.

About 600 people are reported to have been killed since the insurgency began three years ago.

Read: Is the Islamic State infiltrating Mozambique?

Jihadists overrun strategic town in Mozambique

Jose Tembe

BBC News, Maputo

Street vendors hawk their goods to passengers on waiting buses in June 2018 in Macomia, Mozambique
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Macomia is on the main road that connects the north and south of Cabo Delgado province

Islamist militants in northern Mozambique have overrun another town in Cabo Delgado province.

About 90 jihadists started filling the streets of Macomia before dawn on Thursday, local publication Carta de Mocambique says.

They fired into the air, causing people to flee and later received reinforcements from Cabo Delgado's northern Mocimboa da Praia district, where the jihadists are believed to have their main base.

In response at least two helicopters were reportedly deployed and fired on to the strategic town.

It is about 200km (125 miles) north of the provincial town of Pemba and is on the main road that connects the north and south of Cabo Delgado.

South Africa’s private security group, Dyck Advisory Group, is reported to have supported the military in its attack.

According to the government news agency AIM, the militants burnt down homes and the Macomia health centre as well as hoisting an Islamic State (IS) group flag.

There are reports that they went to pray in a local mosque.

Violence began in the region in 2017 when a militant group, known locally as al-Shabab, took up arms. It is not clear whether it has any links to the Somali group of the same name, but recent attacks have been claimed by IS.

Earlier this year two towns - Mocimboa da Praia and Quissanga - were temporarily seized by militants.

The government has appealed for help from other countries in the region.

Mozambique militants 'spotted wearing army uniforms'

Jose Tembe

BBC News, Maputo

Soldiers in northern Mozambique
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The military have been struggling to contain the militants

Mozambique’s interior minister says Islamist militants carrying out attacks in the north have been wearing regular army uniforms and using drones to identify their targets.

Describing them as terrorist groups, Amade Miquidade told parliament they were melting back into the community and were being sheltered by families after carrying out attacks.

The minister however said the military had made inroads in the fight against the Islamist militants.

The militant group is known locally as al-Shabab. It is not clear whether it has any links to the Somali group of the same name.

Last weekend, South Africa said it was discussing how it could help Mozambique end the violence.

Since 2017, around 600 people have been killed in attacks blamed on Islamist militants.

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Sex workers deported from Mozambique

Jose Tembe

BBC News, Maputo

Woman in shadow
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The sex workers were arrested for violating the state of emergency rules

Police in Mozambique have deported 43 sex workers who were arrested for violating coronavirus restrictions.

They included Zambians and Zimbabweans who were arrested in an operation last week, the authorities said.

About 109 people were arrested for violating the state of emergency rules in Beira city.

They included sex workers, traders and people found drinking along public roads.

Some 77 of those arrested were sex workers, 43 of which were foreigners who were deported, according to the director of the police provincial command Fernando Ribeiro.

Some of the alcohol sellers were children, he added.

Mozambique has recorded 227 positive cases of Covid-19, 12 of which are in Sofala province.

The country's President Filipe Nyusi extended the state of emergency announced on 1 April for another month citing rising cases.

During the state of emergency movement within the country is restricted, schools are closed and foreigners are not allowed into the country.

Free coronavirus hotline launches in Mozambique

Jose Tembe

BBC News, Maputo

An activist speaks to locals during a daily distribution action of the capulana masks (traditional printed fabric) made from small donations from local designers, in Maputo, Mozambique
The country has 209 confirmed cases of the virus

The government in Mozambique has launched a free coronavirus hotline to reduce the number of people physically visiting health centres.

Callers can dial the switchboard on 110 for information and counselling. They are also encouraged to report people who are flouting quarantine or self-isolation guidance.

Six doctors will work in shifts and the health ministry expects they will receive about 2,000 calls per day.

The project costs $100,000 (£82,000) and has been financed by international partners.

The switchboard is installed inside the Mavalane General Hospital on the outskirts of the capital, Maputo.

The Mozambican government hopes to open similar services in two other cities: Beira in the centre, and Nampula in the north.

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Mozambique confirms first coronavirus death

Jose Tembe

BBC News, Maputo

A map of Mozambique

Mozambique has reported its first coronavirus death - a 13-year-old boy from the northern province of Nampula.

National Director of Public Health Rosa Marlene confirmed the death on Monday.

The southern Africa country has also confirmed 15 new cases, bringing the total number to 209 cases.

The new cases include a health worker who was diagnosed with Covid-19 in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.

The authorities have now decided to test all 5,000 health workers in the mineral-rich province - the worst-hit by the pandemic.