Members of the Southern African Development Community military mission in Mozambique are being investigated after a video circulated on social media showing them throwing bodies on a pile of burning rubble, officials said Tuesday.
The soldiers are part of the mission deployed by the 16-nation regional bloc of southern African countries to fight Islamic extremists who have waged terror against communities in northern Mozambique.
The insurgency in Mozambique has been blamed for more than 3,000 deaths since 2017, with more than 800,000 people displaced and more than 1 million in need of food aid, according to the U.N. World Food Program.
The video shows unidentified members of the mission burning a pile of rubble including furniture and utensils and throwing one body on it while another body lay on the burning trash.
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At least one soldier wearing a military uniform with a South African flag is seen holding his rifle in one hand and filming the incident on a cell phone with the other.
The incident is believed to have taken place in November last year.
The spokesman for the South African National Defense Force, Brig. Gen. Mokoena Mahapa, described the incident as a “despicable act,” saying it was against the law of armed conflict and that the mission’s force commander is investigating.
“The SANDF does not condone in any way the acts committed in the video and those who are found guilty of such acts will be brought to book,” Mahapa said.
He said South African soldiers on the mission are part of a combined force and fall under the mission’s command and control.
“South Africa only supports their mission logistically,” Mahapa said.
About 600 South African soldiers have been in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region since October 2021 as part of the regional force of about 1,000 troops which also includes Angola, Botswana, Tanzania, Malawi, Lesotho and Zambia.