An elderly Catholic nun was shot and killed earlier this month by Islamic insurgents during an attack on the Chipene mission in the Diocese of Nacala in Mozambique.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reports Sister María de Coppi, 83, a Comboni sister who had worked in Mozambique for 59 years, was shot and died instantly in the Sept. 6 attack. A group of gunmen ransacked and burned down the mission church but also the school, the health center, the residences of the priests and of the nuns, the library, the boys' and girls' boarding houses, and the vehicles belonging to the mission.
"They destroyed everything," Bishop Alberto Vera of Nacala, told the ACN in a telephone interview. "The attackers broke open the tabernacle and vandalized part of the sacristy, looking for whatever they could find – probably money."
The bishop told the nonprofit watchdog that the gunmen were seeking international publicity. "I don't think it was directed against the Church," he speculated. "What they did was an act of terror."
As of September 2021, the Mozambican government and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, estimated that over 800,000 people had been internally displaced due to the fighting, according to the Human Rights Watch World Report 2022.
The attacks in the country's northern Cabo Delgado province began five years ago when Islamic extremists started an insurgency that was largely put down last year by an African multinational military force with troops provided by the 16 member countries of the Southern African Development Community.
The armed group locally known as Al-Shabab or Al-Sunna wa Jama'a (ASWJ), which is linked to the Islamic State (ISIS) is responsible for those incidents.
The humanitarian situation in Cabo Delgado province has continued to deteriorate due to intensified fighting between government security forces and ASWJ.
The latest terrorist campaign in the east African country began on Aug. 29 and continued with four separate attacks that continued to Sept. 7, the Fides News Agency (FNA) reported.
The outlet reported groups of gunmen targeted the towns of Ancuabe and Chure (Cabo Delgado) and four in the districts of Memba (which includes the Chipene mission) and Erati (Nampula). They targeted defenseless civilians working in their fields and beheaded them with the clear intent of spreading terror among the local citizens.
The objective of the jihadists seems to be to diffuse the pressure exerted by the Mozambican forces and their allies (mainly the soldiers sent by Rwanda) in the northern districts of Cabo Delgado; by expanding the conflict zone, the insurgents hope to force the regular army to disperse its forces, the FNA said.