Amnesty International on Tuesday called for an independent probe into the killing of a naked pregnant woman by men in military uniform in Mozambique’s restive north, an atrocity the government blamed on militants.
Video footage emerged this week showing men in army uniform beating a woman they accused of being an insurgent and then shooting her.
The Amnesty call came as the Mozambican government blamed the killing on militants who have waged a violent insurgency in gas-rich Cabo Delgado Province for the past three years.
“The authorities in Mozambique must immediately launch an independent and impartial investigation into the extrajudicial killing of a defenseless naked woman,” Amnesty said.
The government on Monday had vowed to investigate the killing, but Mozambican Minister of the Interior Amade Miquidade on Tuesday said that the killers were militants dressed in uniforms “identical” to that of government troops.
“The video showing atrocities against a pregnant woman is propaganda by terrorists,” he said in an audio statement. “The video was made by terrorists ... to confuse the public and it is not the first time that this has happened.”
The video first circulated on social media on Monday, but was first shared privately on mobile phones on Monday last week, the day it is suspected to have been taken, Amnesty said.
It showed what appears to be government troops shouting and marching behind a woman stripped of her clothing, before the men beat and shoot her 36 times.
Amnesty said that the footage was yet “another gruesome example of the gross human rights violations and merciless killings taking place in Cabo Delgado by the Mozambican security forces.”
According to analysis by Amnesty, the unidentified woman was killed along a road in the small town of Awasse.
The executioners were heard shouting in Portuguese that she was a member of al-Shabaab, the name of the militant group that has led a growing insurgency against the Mozambican government since 2017.
Amnesty regional director for east and southern Africa Deprose Muchena said that the incident was consistent with the group’s findings of rights violations and crimes “committed by the Mozambican armed forces.”
Human Rights Watch researcher Zenaida Machado said that the Mozambican government had failed to keep the security forces in line.
“Instead ... what they invested on is a campaign of denial, a campaign of attacking groups like ours, activists and anyone who condemns the attitude and conduct of security forces,” Machado said.
Military forces have been struggling to regain control of Cabo Delgado, which is home to one of Africa’s biggest liquefied natural gas projects.
The violence has claimed more than 1,500 lives and displaced at least 250,000 people since 2017.
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