Mozambicans protest wave of kidnappings

MAPUTO, Mozambique (AP) — A wave of kidnappings and other violent crimes in Mozambique has alarmed its citizens, some of whom demonstrated against what they charge is negligence by authorities who are struggling to restore security.

Thousands marched in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, on Thursday, urging the government to do more to stop crime and even accusing rogue police officers of involvement. Police have not commented on the criticism, though one member of the ruling party said Mozambique is democratic and people are free to say what they think.

The unease comes amid increased political tension and sporadic violence ahead of municipal elections on Nov. 20 in a country that has drawn increased foreign investment because of its energy reserves and other natural resources. The opposition Renamo group and the governing Frelimo party are locked in a dispute despite talks aimed at resolving their differences. The two sides fought a civil war after independence from Portugal in 1975; a peace deal was signed in 1992.

The anti-kidnapping demonstration in Maputo followed the recent kidnapping and killing of a 13-year-old boy whose body was later found in the central port city of Beira. Some of the boy's body parts had been removed, allegedly for witchcraft rituals, which have been on the increase in recent years.

The nation's parliament has condemned the kidnappings. In many cases, kidnappers have targeted businessmen and their families and demanded ransoms. Some victims are of Pakistani origin, and own supermarkets, car parks and money exchange operations.

During the protest, people carried placards that read "Deaf government" and "We demand security." Among the speakers was Alice Mabota, a human rights activist who charged that some police were collaborating with kidnappers and that penalties for their crimes were insufficient.

Earlier this week, nine people, including two police officers, were sentenced to 18 years in jail for involvement in kidnappings. Another group of kidnappers will soon face sentencing in a Maputo court.

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