Maputo (AFP) - Twelve people were killed late Monday in fresh attacks by suspected jihadists in northern Mozambique ahead of elections next month, officials said.
Ten people were murdered in the village of Mbau, in Mocimbao da Praia district, and half of the homes in the locality were burned down, along with the offices of the ruling Frelimo party, a local official said on Tuesday.
"They entered the village and came across a group of young people who were drinking alcohol. Many were killed," the official, Assane Issa, told AFP.
"The villagers then fled into the forest."
Police then intervened, forcing the assailants out after a gun battle that finished at around 1 a.m., Issa said.
Earlier Monday, suspected jihadists attacked the village of Mindumbe, a few dozen kilometres (a couple of dozen miles) to the south.
"The rebels came across two men in their fields -- they killed them and then decapitated them," a villager told AFP.
Northern Mozambique has borne the brunt of a nearly two-year-old wave of attacks by a shadowy jihadist organisation, defying attempts by the government to secure the region.
At least 300 civilians have been killed and tens of thousands of people have fled their homes.
The so-called Islamic State group has recently claimed responsibility for several attacks, but this assertion is doubted by experts.
Presidential, legislative and provincial elections are due to take place on October 15. President Filipe Nyusi's Frelimo party, which has been in power since 1975, is the front runner.
In a speech on Tuesday evening, Nyusi acknowledged that the return to order in the region had been "delayed".
"I hereby repeat my utter rejection of these attacks and the climate of fear spreading in our country and threatening our successes," he told generals.
"The government will give the defence and security forces all the necessary means to eradicate this wave of deliberate assassinations."