Catholic nun killed by jihadists

Catholic nun killed by jihadists

Sister Maria De Coppi, an Italian nun who has been in Mozambique for sixty years, was shot dead during the attack on her mission, while she was trying to protect some students.

An Italian nun has been killed in an attack on a Catholic mission in northeastern Mozambique that has been plagued by jihadist violence for nearly five years, her congregation said on Wednesday. Sister Maria De Coppi was killed by “terroristswho attacked the mission of Chipene, in the diocese of Nacala, a port town in a northeastern province, on Tuesday evening, the Comboni Missionary Sisters said in a statement taken up by AFP.

Church, hospital, primary and secondary school: the main structures of this mission located in a forest area and dedicated to education were destroyed by the attackers, reports the agency Fides. Sister Maria De Coppi, 84, was shot in the head as she was heading to the dormitory where some students had stayed. A traditional chief also lost his life.

The attackers”destroyed and set fire to the church, the sisters’ quarters, the hospital and the mission carsadded the religious leaders. Two other nuns, an Italian and a Spanish,managed to escape and hide in the forestwith a group of young girls.

Catholics increasingly targeted by jihadists

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack on Wednesday, saying in a statement that its fighterskilled four Christians, including an Italian nunin northern Mozambique. Jihadists operating in the region have recently made incursions further south as a regional military mission unfolds in Cabo Delgado. Several sporadic attacks have taken place in recent months, affecting several of the neighboring provinces of Cabo Delgado.

According to the Italian press, Sister Maria De Coppi, in her 80s, had worked in Mozambique since the 1960s. The mission housed people who had fled their homes because of jihadist attacks in that country.

The attack on the Chipene mission is not the first carried out by these armed extremists against Catholic churches in Mozambique. In April and then in October 2020, the mission of Nangololo, the second oldest mission of the diocese of Pemba (district of Muidumbe, province of Cabo Delgado) had been completely destroyed.

Reacting with emotion to the news of her assassination, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, invited prayers for the nun “who for sixty years served Mozambique, which had become his home. May his sacrifice be a seed of peace and reconciliation in a country which, after years of stability, is once again in the grip of violence, caused by Islamist groups which, for some years now, have been sowing terror and death in many vast areas of the north of the country”, reports Vatican News.

The Sao Pedro de Lurio de Chipene mission was founded in 1963 by Sister Maria herself. The nun, born in 1939 and originally from Santa Lucia di Piave (diocese of Vittorio Veneto, in northern Italy), had arrived on Mozambican soil after a long journey by boat. The two priests in charge of the mission, who during the attack locked themselves in a room having finally escaped the flames and the shots, came out of it safe and sound, and are safe. The other nuns, religious and laity of the mission, also survivors, took the direction of Nacala, the second city of the province of Nampula.

Since January 1, 2022, 13 priests and 2 nuns have been killed (1 in Asia, 8 in Africa and 6 in Asia), according to a count by the editorial staff of the seismography .

4,000 dead since 2017 in Mozambique

The violence in Mozambique has killed nearly 4,000 people since October 2017, according to the NGO Acled, which collects data in conflict zones, and caused the flight of 820,000 people. The region of Nampula, where the mission is located, had so far been spared from jihadist attacks, which mainly targeted the neighboring province of Cabo Delgado, rich in natural gas. “This is an area that was considered relatively safe until now“Said Piers Pigou to AFP, a consultant for southern Africa at the Crisis Group think tank.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said on Wednesday that the jihadists had split into several small cells of up to 15 militants to avoid detection. “In recent days, they have moved in the province of Nampulasaid Filipe Nyusi at an event held in the southern city of Xai-Xai and streamed online.

Since August 27, six people have been beheaded, three kidnapped and dozens of houses burned down in attacks in Nampula and other towns, the head of state added.

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