Kidnappers torture boy to death

MOZAMBIQUE – Mozambicans were left in shock this week after a 13-year-old boy was tortured to death by his kidnappers because his parents couldn't afford to pay the demanded ransom of $1 million. His mutilated body with the severed feet and hands, was discovered in Dondo, about 30 kilometres from Beira. He was held in captivity for six days.

Yesterday thousands of angry residents in Maputo took to the streets to protest against the kidnapping situation that has been aimed at the wealthy. Lowvelder has been reporting on the situation since September. The attackers demand exorbitant amounts of money and five cases have been reported since last week Monday.

The killing of Abdul Rashid, who was kidnapped on October 22 in Beira, was the last straw. His mother, whose name has not been revealed to any media, held a press conference the day after his body was found. Mozambican media reported that she said the kidnappers contacted the family with a demand for a ransom of US$1 million shortly after he had disappeared. She and her husband own a small shop in Beira. They told the kidnappers that they didn't have that kind of money. They negotiated to have the ransom reduced to 10 million meticais (about US$33 500), then five million, and finally one million meticais.

The mother said that, while they were trying to raise the money, they informed police that their son had been taken. The kidnappers then sent the parents a video of Rashid, tied to a chair and begging for his life, saying “Dad, mum, give them what they want, I can't stay here any more, I don't have anything to drink, please.”

The next contact with was a phone call telling the parents that, since they had contacted the police, they would never see their son again. His body was found shortly afterwards.

The mother said she had no doubt that somebody in the police had contacted the kidnappers. She told reporters she blamed the government for the death of her son.

Last week Lowvelder reported on two women being abducted on the same day. One of them, who owned an ice-making factory in Maputo, managed to escape on Monday. According to Maputo police spokesman Mr Amaldo Chefo, the woman said she had been held captive in a house in Bunhica, in the neighbouring city of Matola.

She apparently managed to flee after the kidnappers allowed her to take a bath. She climbed over a wall and ran to the next house, where the owners helped her contact the police. Chefo added that police had arrested two suspects.

The family of a businessman (who now lives in Nelspruit) has been in contact with their brother's kidnappers in an attempt to negotiate the US$1,5 million they are demanding, but hasn't managed to resolve the situation.

Meanwhile, six members of a kidnapping gang, which included two policemen, were sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment in Maputo that day. In handing down his sentencing, judge Aderito Malhope said it had been proved that Bendene Chissano (known as “the Angolan”), the brothers Arsenio and Luis Chitsotso, their cousin Joaquim Chitsotso, Albino Primeiro and Luis Manuel da Silva had been involved in the kidnapping of six people.

Malhope also ordered that the kidnappers pay their victims compensation ranging from US$50 000 to US$100 000.

The prosecution said that Chissano led the gang, but was acting on the instructions of others. The mastermind suspected of ordering the kidnappings is fugitive businessman Mr Bakhir Ayoob. There are now two outstanding warrants for his arrest. Chefo concluded that police were making great progress with the investigations, but could not divulge any details.

Employees of the coal company, Rio Tinto, were instructed by their company on Wednesday to remove their wives and children from the country. The company's spokesman had not returned any messages left on his voicemail at the time of going to press.

More Mozambicans have also taken refuge in Nelspruit and it has been reported that the rich are fleeing the country in droves. The Mozambican government has still not really reacted to the situation and efforts to get official comment from them, have failed.

Tereasa Ferrari

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