Since 2017, Cabo Delgado, Mozambique’s northernmost province, is the scene of a deadly insurrection. While foreigners have joined in the name of jihad, most of the Mozambican rank and file militants are motivated by their perceived socio-economic exclusion amid major mineral and hydrocarbon discoveries in the region. The conflict threatens national stability, just as Mozambique is fulfilling a peace deal with the country’s main opposition group in the center of Mozambique, and risks becoming a new frontier for global jihad to exploit. Crisis Group advocates for bespoke military support from external actors, dialogue with the Mozambican rank and file and measures to address the underlying frustrations that led these militants to take up arms.

CrisisWatch Mozambique

Unchanged Situation

In far north Cabo Delgado province, Islamist insurgents launched attacks in several districts, beheading civilians and targeting security and defence forces in likely attempt to resupply weapons. Insurgents 5 Aug raided security forces’ Namituco base, Meluco district; Islamic State Mozambique Province (ISMP) later claimed to have injured several soldiers and looted ammunition. ISMP 7 Aug claimed attack on security forces’ Namuembe base, Nangade district, reportedly injuring soldiers, seizing weapons and ammunition; unconfirmed reports said two members of police’s Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR) killed in assault. UIR detachment in Litingina town, also Nangade, 19 Aug reportedly withdrew under assault from insurgents, with armoured vehicle from Lesotho Defence Forces destroyed. Insurgent attacks also left several civilians dead, many of them beheaded. Notably, in Macomia district, insurgents 2 Aug beheaded three civilians in Litandacua village; ISMP later claimed attack. In Muidumbe district, insurgents 6-10 Aug raided several villages, killing at least four residents and forcing others to flee; 23-26 Aug beheaded four other civilians near Mandela, Mapate and Muambula villages, and shot dead militia member near Nova Família village. Multiple incidents recorded mid-Aug in Palma district, including 18 Aug attack on Nhica do Rovuma village, 30km from Palma town. In Mocímboa da Praia district, insurgents 18 Aug launched mortars near district capital. In Meluco, insurgents around 24-27 Aug reportedly killed at least three security forces personnel and five civilians in Minhanha village. In Ancuabe district in southern Cabo Delgado, series of insurgent attacks 29-31 Aug left several civilians killed, most of them beheaded, including near border with Chiure district. Rwandan Defence Forces 2 Aug said over 600 civilians held hostage by insurgents had been rescued since Rwandan, Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) and Mozambican forces started counter-insurgency operations in Catupa forest of Macomia district in April. SADC 17 Aug renewed SAMIM mandate for 12 months.

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In The News

8 Apr 2021
The question is whether [the insurgency in northern Mozambique] can be nipped in the bud at this juncture without spreading further. AFP

Piers Pigou

Senior Consultant, Southern Africa

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