News / Africa

Mozambique Struggles to Find Source of Kidnappings

MAPUTO - Authorities in Mozambique have rounded up 22 people in connection with kidnappings that have terrorized the Muslim community in recent months.   The government and Islamic leaders have agreed to work together to try to stop the crimes.   

The call to prayer as dusk falls in the bustling heart of Mozambique's capital, Maputo.

These days, heeding that call can be risky.  Kidnappers have snatched people leaving mosques in the past.

The mysterious spate of kidnappings began last December, targeting a small set of wealthy, Muslim businessmen and their families. It is unclear how many, but reports say more than the 14 kidnappings reported to the police so far.

In some cases families have coughed up as much as $2 million for the release of loved ones.

Until now a shroud of official silence has surrounded these crimes.  Instead the news has filtered out, through the Mozambican media contributing to a climate of fear among Muslims and feeding the rumor mill as to whom is responsible.

Few are prepared to speak in public about what has been going on.

People are afraid to go out at all says Shahid Omar, a worshipper at one mosque in Maputo.

"This is a big problem because you can not walk free here now," said Omar. "People are saying gossipy things you know people around say there is a people, Indian people, crook people.  Maybe there is police involved in these things.  We do not know."

Lack of cooperation

The police have been working non-stop to find out what is behind the abductions.  Maputo city police spokesperson, Arnaldo Chefo says the main obstacle has been the lack of cooperation from the families of the victims.

This is where the problem begins, he says.  In most cases the payment of ransom takes place without having the police involved or even without the police knowing about it.  In most cases families do not want to invite the police from taking place in the exchange of the money.  That stops the police from doing their part.

Four million Mozambicans are Muslim, more than 15 percent of the population. The country's ties to the Islamic world go back to pre-colonial times.  Muslims have traditionally been traders and businesspeople.


Muslim Yusuf Ahmat says it is a mistake to think the kidnappers are targeting Muslims in general, as the kidnappers tend to target only those of Indian or Pakistani origin.

"Actually it is not the Muslim community," said Ahmat.  "The Muslim community is not formed by the Asian people alone.  As you see in the mosque we are all mixed.  The kidnappings have been Asians, especially the businessmen have been kidnapped."

Twenty years after the end of a civil war that left  Mozambique's economy in tatters, the country is at last poised for a boom.  Large coal and natural gas deposits are attracting foreign investors.  

Muslims like Sheik Cassimo David are worried these unsolved crimes will scare them off.

"With these happenings, these assassinations will make people from outside frightened to come in so the government has to do something," he said.

Authorities say they made dozens of arrests connected to the case after sitting down to share information on the kidnappings with Muslim leaders last week.  And, they are eager to prove Mozambique is safe for Muslims and safe for business.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs