Mozambique: On 20th September 2018, suspected Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamo/Ansar al Sunna (Shabaab) fighters executed its deadliest attack on the village of Pequeu in the Macomia district of Cabo Delgado in Mozambique. During the attack 12 people were killed and 55 houses destroyed by arson. Ten of those killed were shot, with one subsequent beheading. The incident was reported by Zitamar News.
On the same day, suspected Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamo/Ansar al Sunna (Shabaab) fighters ambushed a military patrol at Pundanhare, approximately 70km west of Palma. Reports stated that two soldiers were killed.
Eyewitnesses reported that the attackers ambushed the Mozambique Defence Armed Forces (FADM) vehicle patrol by laying tree branches/logs/trunks across the road forcing the vehicle to stop. The FADM soldiers subsequently had to get out of vehicle to remove the obstacles, and the ambush was executed.
With these two attacks within 24 hours indicate that the current security situation in the Cabo Delgado Province in Mozambique can, at best, be described as precarious. TRAC sources are reporting widespread fear and terror among the locals. Villages are abandoned at night fearing attacks by Shabaab Cult cells linked to Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamo/Ansar al-Sunna. Beginning in October 2017 in the area of Mocimboa da Praia in the Cabo Delgado region, Shabaab Cult has been peppering remote regions with escalating series of attacks. Since the government has been unable to protect them, locals have resorted to seeking refuge at night in surrounding bush areas of villages. Local lodges and guesthouses are also forced to go into lockdown at night, those with the financial resources have been employing private guards armed with shot guns. Irrespective Shabaab Cult’s actual motives for attacks, those responsible for these brutal attacks have gained a mythical reputation among the local population.
Simplified comparisons with an Islamist insurgency does not account for the lack of propaganda material or claims by al Sunnah. Defining the group as extremist is reliant on only a few indicators such as foreign influence, a unique dress attire and single video in which calls are made for an offensive jihad. Extremist religious interpretations cannot be categorically denied, but remains one of several scenarios at play within in an environment where organized crime syndicates has a deep seated footprint as well as socio economic frustrations. Pemba and Nacala are access points for the heroin trade into Mozambique and South Africa. The current Mozambique government attempts at countering collusion and organised crime activities could easily have facilitated a more violent reaction in protecting routes. As stated above, foreign influence cannot be denied. Young Tanzanians are suspected of smuggling weapons from Mozambique into Tanzania. Yet again, there are various possible reasons for the involvement of non-Mozambique residents: protection of organized crime networks -or- Islamist extremism -or- a combination of both. Complicating the search for motivation is the targets of attack. Initial attacks against security forces and government institutions have moved towards local villages. The international oil and gas sector has not been targeted. Motivation remains inconclusive and drum beating an Islamic Insurgency is only presenting a singly hypothesis assumption conveniently skipping the context within which attacks are manifesting.
Extract from ITCT Associate Jasmine Opperman‘s Insight on Mozambique as published by Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium (TRAC)