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Fear for 70 missing children

More than 70 children are missing as a result of recent jihadist attacks in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado, authorities say.

They became separated from their families as thousands fled to a neighboring province in recent weeks.

There are fears that some of them have been kidnapped by fighters linked to the Islamic State (IS).

Regional forces have helped the military tackle an insurgency involving Islamist militants that began in 2017.

But violence has increased recently and the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says 80,000 people have been displaced since January.

They also included children who fled from the Chiùre district in Cabo Delgado to Nampula province in recent weeks.

Chiùre, in southern Cabo Delgado, has been a relatively safe haven for the displaced in recent years, with violence reported mainly in the north of the province.

Last week, President Filipe Nyusi said the jihadists had deliberately attacked Chiùre to kidnap children.

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There are concerns that they may have been placed in training camps by the militants, private newspaper Expresso da Tarde reported.

It is not clear how many civilians have been killed in the recent violence in Chiùre – where the army says calm has now been restored.

Officials say the children were lost in the panic as people fled. Some have now been found, but 72 are still missing.

More than 60% of those displaced by the new wave of jihadist attacks are children and 129 schools have been closed, according to a UN report.

It is the highest number of children uprooted in such a short period, says Save the Children.

“There have been repeated reports of beheadings and kidnappings, including several child victims. The conflict has already displaced 540,000 people, more than half of whom are children,” the charity said.

The uprising in the gas-rich province of Cabo Delgado, launched by the IS-linked local militia Al-Shabab, is now in its seventh year.

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High poverty levels and disputes over access to land and jobs have contributed to local grievances.

More about the uprising in Mozambique:

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