Thirty-seven people in Mozambique have been sentenced for involvement in recent militants attacks in the country’s North, a court official said on Friday.

The closed-door trial started in 2018 with many more defendants but 113 were acquitted due to lack of evidence, Zacarias Napatima, a spokesman at Cabo Delgado Provincial Court in Pemba, said.

The 37 convicted were found guilty on Wednesday of being a security threat to the state, participation in a criminal association, and homicide.

They were sentenced to between 12 and 40 years in prison.

Defence Minister, Atanasio Mtumuke, said the authorities were still unsure what their motivations were.

“The arrested people never told us who their ‘bosses’ are”, he said on TV this week.

During the proceedings the defendants claimed they were recruited by people to study Islam and the Quran abroad, Napatima said.

“Many were indoctrinated,” he added.

The attacks in the gas-rich province of Cabo Delgado started in October 2017.

The insurgents attacked villages and government buildings and killed dozens of people – including by beheading.

U.S.-based think-tank, The Africa Centre for Stratgic Studies has said the attacks “caught observers of international jihadism by surprise.”

However, they said a group known locally both as al-Shabaab (the youth) and as Swahili Sunnah (the Swahili path) appeared to be attracting new recruits in Mozambique.

There is no known link to the Somali militant group al-Shabaab.

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