An insurgency in Mozambique that began in 2017 is escalating in intensity and leading to disturbing new claims from human rights groups. This week, the UK aid group Save the Children accused insurgents allied with the Islamic State of beheading children as young as 11, reports Reuters. The aid agency offers eyewitness accounts from mothers whose villages were raided. "We tried to escape to the woods, but they took my eldest son and beheaded him," says a 28-year-old identified as Elsa, who was hiding with three smaller children. "We couldn't do anything because we would be killed, too." Her boy was 12. Another mother tells a similar story of her 11-year-old son. The New York Times, meanwhile, reports that the US military got involved this week—in the form of a dozen Green Berets who are training Mozambique solders on how to fight the insurgents.
The war "is part of an alarming expansion of insurgencies believed to have ties to the Islamic State in several parts of Africa," write Declan Walsh and Eric Schmitt in the Times. "I don't think anyone saw this coming," says Col. Richard Schmidt, deputy commander of US Special Operations Forces in Africa. "For this to crop up so quickly is concerning." The BBC digs into the background of the war, which appears to have risen in part out of anger that locals weren't benefiting from the nation's burgeoning ruby and gas industries. The violence is centered in the northeastern province of Cabo Delgado. Both sides have been accused of atrocities, and Reuters notes that beheadings have been a hallmark of the fighting. But the new claims about the beheading of children raise the accusations of human rights groups to a new level. (Read more Mozambique stories.)