Thousands of people, including small children, have been brutally murdered by Islamists who have been at war with government forces.

Children as young as 11 were beheaded in Mozambique, the British-based aid group Save the Children claimed on March 28, in the wake of an Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands and forced many more to flee their homes.

The NGO said it had spoken to displaced families who described “horrific scenes” of slaughter, with mothers talking about the murder of their young sons. For example, a helpless woman hid with her other three children while her 12-year-old son was being killed nearby.

“We tried to escape to the forest, but they caught my eldest son and beheaded him,” said the 28-year-old woman, whose name is Elsa,  according to Save the Children.

“We could not do anything because they would kill us too.”

Another mother, a 29-year-old named Amelia , according to the NGO, said her son was just 11 when he was killed by gunmen.

Children Beheaded in Mozambique: Shocking Testimonies of Displaced Families

A bloody Islamic State-linked insurgency has been raging in Mozambique’s northern province of Campo Delgado since 2017, which escalated dramatically over the last year. Beheading has always been one of the main features of such attacks. During 2020 the militants regularly engaged in battles with the army to capture and occupy important cities. The atrocity also continued with mass executions, including the killing of about 52 people in the village of Xitaxi last April. In total approximately 2,700 people on all sides have lost their lives in violence, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a political watchdog. Some 670,000 people have been displaced, according to Save the Children.

An organization Al Ansar al-Sunna, known locally as Al-Shabab (“the youth”, in Arabic), unleashed a bloody uprising in 2017 in the province of Campo Delgado, where the majority of the population is Muslim and lives on the border with Tanzania , before declaring allegiance to jihadists Islamic State organization.

Children Beheaded in Mozambique: Shocking Testimonies of Displaced Families

On March 11th, the United States designated the militant group in Mozambique as a foreign terrorist organization for its relations with the Islamic State, noting that the group has reportedly declared allegiance to the jihadist organization since 2018.

The U.S. Embassy in Mozambique announced on March 15th that the U.S. Special Forces will train Mozambican Marines for two months, and the U.S. will also provide medical and communications equipment to help Mozambique fight the insurgency.

Children Beheaded in Mozambique: Shocking Testimonies of Displaced Families

Amnesty International found earlier this month that war crimes were being committed by all parties to the conflict, and government forces are also responsible for abuses against civilians – a charge the government has denied.

The Chance Briggs, director of Save the Children in Mozambique, said that the information about attacks on children ’cause our indignation, and noted that all parties to this conflict must guarantee that children never an objective.

“Violence must stop and displaced families need support as they try heal their wounds,” he said, noting that nearly one million people are at risk of starvation.