A ZIMBABWEAN family based in neighbouring Mozambique has appealed for government assistance to facilitate the release of their two relatives who were kidnapped by Islamist insurgents in that country in March.

The two sisters, Mariana Francisco (44) and Monica Zvinanetsi (37), were allegedly abducted by the Islamist insurgents in Palma, Cabo Delgado province, and were never seen again.

The family is now worried over the fate of the two sisters after the terrorists were repelled following the military intervention of Rwanda and Southern African Development Community (Sadc) forces.

An estimated 3 000 people have been killed and over 850 000 displaced from their homes in the gas-rich Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique since the conflict began in 2017, according to humanitarian agencies.

Family spokesperson Agnes Manyanga Moyo told NewsDay from her Maputo base yesterday that they were traumatised by the capture of their family members.

Moyo appealed to government to assist them.

“We are having sleepless nights about this. We need government assistance for their release as they left children and families behind. It is so traumatising and emotionally draining,” she said.

“We really need them released. Freedom is their priceless right. Their children and family need them back. We are going through a lot over their kidnapping. We used to be told by those that escaped that they are alive.”

But with Islamists pushed back after the intervention of Rwanda and Sadc forces, the family now fears the worst.

“We still have faith that they are still alive until proven otherwise. We are hopeful they are alive. Until we know their fate, we remain hopeful,” Moyo said.

Contacted to comment over the issue, Foreign Affairs ministry spokesperson Constance Chemwa said: “I will come back to you once I get some information from the relevant department.”

In April this year, a Zimbabwean man, Nyasha Mugwagwa (38), died in a terrorist attack in Mozambique.

He was among 12 people, mostly foreigners, who were killed in Palma when armed terrorists with allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), attacked the Mozambican town.

Rwanda deployed a joint force of army and police to the troubled northern province of Cabo Delgado in August.

At the time, Sadc had not taken a firm position on deployment of troops.

On August 9, the Mozambican government regained control of a key port city, Mocímboa da Praia, which Islamist militants had held for two years.

Zimbabwe’s Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri has been quoted confirming that government approved the deployment of 303 instructors to train infantry battalion soldiers for deployment.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the deployment of 1 495 troops, while Botswana sent 296 soldiers.

The number of soldiers deployed by Tanzania is not yet known.

The wave of violence in Cabo Delgado near the border with Tanzania came to the fore following an armed attack on police stations in Mocímboa da Praia in October 2017.

The group’s modus operandi, at the time, was attacking and decapitating people indiscriminately with machetes and firearms and burning down their houses and villages.

By July 2019, it had pledged allegiance to ISIS, an extremist militant group that calls itself a caliphate and claims religious authority over all Muslims.