Italian nun killed in attack attributed to jihadists in Mozambique


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 "terrorists" who attacked the Chipene mission on Tuesday evening, the Comboni Missionary Sisters said in a statement.

The mission is based in the diocese of Nacala, a port city in a northeastern province neighboring Cabo Delgado, the epicenter of jihadist violence in the country.

The attackers "destroyed and set fire to the church, the sisters' quarters, the hospital and the mission cars", the religious leaders added.

Two other nuns, an Italian and a Spanish, "managed to escape and hide in the forest" with a group of young girls.

A life of service to others in Mozambique

Sister Maria De Coppi, 83, had worked in Mozambique since 1963. In 2021, in an interview for an Italian weekly, The Azione, Sister Maria had testified of her life as a missionary in Mozambique.

After 59 years in the country, she confided that she felt part of "this land and this people in the midst of which" she lived her life.

If she evoked two very hard years between "a war for gas fields", "a cyclone", "drought" and "extreme poverty", she also said that people "have not lost hope". “I try to stay close to them by listening to what they tell me. Despite material poverty, listening to others remains a great gift, it is to recognize their dignity”, she underlined.

On Twitter, Paolo De Coppi, who describes himself as close to the nun, pays tribute to a woman who dedicated her life to taking care of the poorest. He adds that she was the one who inspired him to become a doctor.

The mission housed people who fled their homes due to jihadist attacks in the country.

The violence 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 northern province of Cabo Delgado, bordering Tanzania and rich in natural gas, is the only part of Mozambique with a Muslim majority, and also one of the most deprived regions of one of the poorest countries in the world.

After a major attack in 2021 in the city of Palma, which had forced the French energy giant TotalEnergies to suspend a natural gas project weighing 16,5 billion euros, the violence had experienced a relative lull.

But sporadic attacks have continued in recent months, affecting several of the neighboring provinces of Cabo Delgado.

More than 3.100 soldiers from several African countries have been deployed for more than a year in the region in support of the Mozambican army.

Camille Westphal Perrier (with AFP)

Image credit: Screenshot La Tenda TV

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