Three mosques closed in Pemba

Maputo – Following the abortive Islamist uprising on 5-6 October in Mocimboa da Praia district, in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, the government has ordered the closure of three mosques in the provincial capital, Pemba, believed to have some connection with Islamic fundamentalism.

According to a report in Friday’s issue of the Maputo daily, Noticias, the mosques are in the Pemba neighbourhoods of Cariaco, Alto Gigone and Chiuba.

The Provincial Director of Justice, Alvaro Goncalves, confirmed the closures, and said the decision is “irreversible”. He warned that the closures will be extended to other parts of Pemba, and to the districts of Chiure, Montepuez, Macomia, Nangade, Palma and Mocimboa da Praia itself.

“This was a measure taken by the government and affects only those mosques which had some contact with the group of citizens involved in the Mocimboa da Praia events,” he added. He said the government is acting in coordination with the main Moslem organisations in the country, such as the Islamic Council of Mozambique and the Islamic Congress.

Interviewed by Noticias, a Cabo Delgado leader of the Islamic Council, Sheik Nassarulahe Dula, confirmed that the mosques now closed had indeed furthered Islamic fundamentalism, stressing that this has nothing to do with the form of Islam followed by his organisation.

“They forbid children from going to the official schools, or from going to hospital,” he said. “They were inciting the public not to possess official documents, and they were challenging the police authorities. These attitudes are not part of Islamic doctrine. We are not in favour of these abuses”.

“Mozambique is a state with institutions that function,” added Dula. “A religious sect cannot appear calling into question the functioning of the institutions in the name of God.”

On 5 October, the Islamist group attacked three police units in Mocimboa da Praia, and several days later a police vehicle on the road to the neighbouring district of Palma was ambushed by people believed to be members of the same group. In the clashes five policemen and 16 Islamists were killed. The attackers also murdered a local community leader.

According to Justice Minister Isaque Chande, speaking to the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, earlier this month, 75 people were detained following the attacks. – AIM

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