The authorities in Mozambique have promised to investigate a video showing people dressed in army uniforms beating and killing a naked woman in the restive gas-rich Cabo Delgado province.
The defence ministry condemned the footage as “horrifying” and vowed to “ascertain their authenticity”.
Rights groups have also condemned the killing. Mozambique has been battling an Islamist militant group in the north for three years.
Its army has been accused of human rights abuses as it tries to put down the insurgency. The government denies the accusations.
The two-minute-long clip of the killing was shared by several rights groups on Monday.
In it a group of men wearing army uniform surround a woman, one hits her in the head and body with a stick several times before others shoot. They can be heard saying in Portuguese “kill her on the side of the road”, Reuters news agency reports.
Shocking Social media video showing a female civilian being executed by #Mozambique defense forces in northern #CaboDelgado. Clear evidence of violation of #HumanRights in #CaboDelgado. @CDD_Moz @OSISA @DeproseM @MatsinheDM @SiphoMalunga @NgcuzaG @tsunga_arnold @SAHRDNetwork pic.twitter.com/AfGB2aU4Zu
— Prof. Adriano Nuvunga, Ph.D. (@adriano_nuvunga) September 14, 2020
The men can also be heard shouting “you’re from al-Shabab”, the AFP news agency reports, referring to the jihadist group that has led a growing insurgency against the government since 2017.
“The FDS [Defence and Security Forces] reiterate that they do not agree with any barbaric act that substantiates the violation of human rights,” the Mozambique army said in a statement.
Zenaida Machado, from the New York-based group Human Rights Watch, called for an investigation saying such acts, if committed by soldiers, sowed distrust in the population and strengthened insurgents’ narrative.
“It’s the worst case of betrayal,” she said, adding that frightened people should not run from insurgents only to find themselves in danger from those supposed to keep them safe.
The group – known locally as al-Shabab, or the youth – have an Islamist agenda, but they are building on decades of local frustrations about unemployment, rigged elections, corruption and violence.
The militants, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, have launched a series of attacks on villages and towns in the area over the past three years, killing more than 1,500 people and displacing at least 250,000, news agency Reuters reports.
However, the army’s operation in the region to fight off the insurgents, who temporarily seized control of Mocimboa da Praia port in the region, in August, has been linked to alleged human rights abuses.
Last week, Amnesty International said it had analysed and verified videos showing attempted beheadings, torture and other ill treatment of prisoners, the dismemberment of alleged opposition fighters and possible extrajudicial executions.
But the government has denied the allegations saying that the insurgents are known to “impersonate soldiers”.
Cabo Delgado, is home to one of Africa’s biggest liquefied natural gas projects.
Exxon Mobil is a major investor in the development of natural gas projects worth $60bn (£45bn) off the region’s coast.