On 25th April 2019, the following image of “Soldiers of the Caliphate in Mozambique” recirculated on Telegram with an attached message:
“The soldiers of the Caliphate in Mozambique; the death of America, my death, your anger, France, you died in your wrath, O enemies of God, confined here and stretched there, will not shrink after its growth, God willing, and this holy march will not stop until we start the last nail in the coffin of Sykes and Picot.”
About the photograph, ITCT Newsdesk talked to ITCT’s top associate from Africa region, Jasmine Opperman.
Major factors to consider about this re-circulation: My assessment since the beginning has been that the sustainability of the Northern Mozambique insurgency would attract attention from international, organizations such as the Islamic State or al Qaeda, who would want to leverage the publicity of expansion. The re-circulation of the photo indicates that IS supporters have taken note; The Islamic State “Revenge Campaign” against the loss of the Caliphate shows an organisation that has successfully redirected its reason for existence among its followers. This is evident in for example the 21 April 2019 Easter Attacks in Sri Lanka; as well as the 18 April 2019 first IS claim in Congo. The Islamic State relies on proxies beyond areas traditionally known for its presence. In the case of Sri Lanka it was National Thowheeth Jama’ath. In Mozambique Shabaab cells do provide such a proxy. The Mozambique government has currently deployed massive number of units in Cabo Delgado resulting in declining attacks. However, the situation at best remains volatile with a schism between local communities and the Government following years of neglect. Muslim organizations have condemned the Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamo/Ansar al-Sunna (Shabaab Cult) cell attacks. Muslim leaders, including Abdul Ismail (President of the Islamic Council of Mozambique), have stated that at no time does their religion justify terror and killers. Regional Islamic leaders have been aiding the Mozambican government in their search for this Shabaab cells. Even with a rise in stigma against the Islamic population, especially in the north of the country, the Muslim community has maintained their stance in that they are not affiliated to any extremist acts or emerging groups in the region. With an ideal environment of instability, community frustrations/grievances and extremism by Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamo/Ansar al-Sunna, it is possible that there are enough sufficient pull factors for the Islamic State to gain a footprint. Support of IS would likely rely on foreign fighter presence and Mozambique is well known for its porous borders. Locals report that Shabaab cells are comprised of young people ranging in age from 20 to 35 years from nearby districts such Macomia, Palma and Nangade; an ideal audience for IS propaganda messages and eventually support. Though the photo itself is not necessarily indicative of Islamic State expansion in Mozambique, however, the photo’s second appearance occurring nearly a year later (May 2018 & April 2019) by Islamic State supporters clearly encourages IS Central Command’s attention.