When the Iranians were arrested, it was widely believed that they were drug traffickers. Their boat was intercepted off the coast of the northern province of Cabo Delgado, in a joint operation between the Mozambican navy and the National Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC).
Reports at the time said that, when the occupants of the boat saw that they were about to be captured, they used a bottle of gas to set the vessel on fire. The flames also devoured the 1,500 kilos of heroin that the boat had supposedly been carrying.
The 15 people on board the boat jumped into the Mozambique Channel, Three of them died in this escape attempt, while the other 12 were rescued by the defence forces and taken to the provincial capital, Pemba. All those arrested are of Iranian nationality.
But the current charge sheet against the Iranians does not mention drug trafficking. It accuses them of terrorism, the possession of illegal weapons, conspiring against the Mozambican state and against public order and tranquility, and membership of a criminal organization.
According to the prosecutors, the Iranians were in a motor boat, outside the Bay of Pemba, when they were intercepted by the defence forces. The Pemba port administration and the Cabo Delgado maritime authorities had no knowledge of the Iranian vessel, and it had no authorization to enter Mozambican waters.
When the Mozambican vessel approached the Iranian boat, its crew used the bottles of gas and explosives they had on board to set it on fire. They then attempted to ram the Mozambican naval vessel, in what the prosecutors believe was an attempt to destroy the Iranian boat, and any evidence on board.
The Mozambican captain avoided a collision, but due to the fire the Iranian boat sank. Most of the crew were fished out of the ocean and arrested.
The prosecution said the Iranians destroyed their boat “to remove traces of the crime, and to prevent the defence and security forces from inspecting what was on board”.
But thanks to information contained on an Iranian cell phone, the Mozambican forces discovered that the boat had been carrying a consignment of firearms and ammunition (including AK-47 assault rifles, machine guns and pistols), plus bayonets, binoculars and a motor-cycle.
Because of this electronic evidence, and statements made by the captured Iranians, the prosecutors reached the conclusion that the Iranians had come to Cabo Delgado to supply guns and ammunition to the islamist terrorists who have been operating in the province since October 2017.
Given the serious nature of the crimes the Iranians supposedly committed, and the danger that they would flee the country, if they were granted bail, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has requested that they remain in police custody.Post published in: Africa News