At least 13 people died after a sailboat sank in bad weather off the coast of Cabo Delgado province, northern Mozambique, local police said on Saturday.
Carrying 50 people, the ship left the coastal town of Memba at night heading for Mocimboa da Praia, more than 200 km further north, when it was caught up in heavy weather and hit rocks, police spokesman Augusto Gusta told AFP.
“We are currently recovering the bodies of 13 victims as well as 35 survivors, who are being held by the police for further investigation,” Gusta said.
The shipwreck occurred south of Pemba, the capital of the province of Cabo Delgado, where militants have been waging a jihadist insurgency for the last two and a half years.
Mozambican police suspect Islamist groups of recruiting combatants in the border regions of Cabo Delgado and using road and sea vessels to transport them to carry out operations.
“Our investigation into the motives for this trip during the night, without notifying the maritime authorities, is still underway,” the spokesman said.
Jihadist attacks, often claimed over the past few months by the Islamic State (IS) group, have left at least 1,100 dead, including civilians, police and military, according to the NGO Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), which tracks and reports on conflict data.
The UN estimates more than 200,000 people in the province have been displaced by the insurgency.