Islamic insurgents attacked more villages in northern Mozambique’s restive Cabo Delgado province this week, in a continuing show of strength that the federal government is failing to deal with.

The attacks are widely viewed as posing a potential threat to workers at the Afungi liquefied natural gas construction site near the town of Palma in Cabo Delgado.

Both the Total-led Mozambique LNG and ExxomnMobil-led Rovuma LNG projects are building facilities at Afungi.

According to Portuguese news agency Lusa, armed groups attacked Meangalewa and Muidumbe villages on 6 April where they burned down a church and took people hostage but did not kill anyone.

Local sources told Lusa there was another armed incursion on 6 April in Bilibiza about 50 kilometres from Pemba.

The militants are also reported to have attacked Muatide village on 7 April, and destroyed several houses in villages of Mueda district, about 40 kilometres from Muidumbe.

Eric Morier-Genoud, senior lecturer in African history at Queen's University in Belfast, UK and who specialises in Mozambique, wrote in his Twitter account that a further attack took place on Tuesday in Miengueleua, while the insurgents attacked Ntchinga on Wednesday morning.

Call to impose Islamic law

Citing several sources, he remarked that “the insurgents have changed tactics — they don’t decapitate, they make declarations and call on the population to build mosques".

Morier-Genoud also stated there is a new video circulating today in which the alleged insurgents said they will only attack the state and its representatives, and re-asserted they want Islamic law imposed in the area.

In the video, Morier-Genoud said the insurgents claimed they are from northern Mozambique, that the government is "unfair" and warned against locals collaborating with the armed forces.

He also said the so-called Islamic State has claimed the attack on Muidumbe.

A local source told Lusa that Muidumbe residents were held hostage for a time before the militants burned down a church.

“They entered in the morning and told the population that everyone should adhere to Islam. They did not kill anyone, they just destroyed a Catholic church and took four people with them,” a local source told the news agency.

People flee

The Bishop of Pemba, Luiz Fernando Lisboa was cited as saying by Lusa: “The population has fled into the bush and I have no way of knowing what happened. I had the same information [that the church was burned down], but I do not have any details or confirmations.”

In late March, the towns of Mocimboa and Quissanga were invaded by the insurgents, with a video distributed on the internet showing an alleged jihadist militant justifying the attacks because they want to impose Islamic law in the region.

Meanwhile, in central Mozambique, armed men — believed to be members of the self-styled Renamo Military Junta (RMJ) — attacked the camp of a timber company in Manica province on 6 April, killing one person and destroying trucks.

The attack took place in the Chambuca area in Sussundenga district, according to the Mozambique News Agency.

RMJ broke away from Renamo, Mozambique’s main opposition party and rejects the peace agreement that was signed with President Filipe Nyusi last August.