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Islamic State's Mozambique Insurgency Rumbles on with Killing of Italian Missionary
The Islamic State (IS) attack on September 6th in Mozambique once again demonstrated just how precarious the security situation is in the country. IS beheaded at least six Mozambiquans and killed an Italian missionary, Sister Maria De Coppi. This follows the trend of IS Mozambique targeting Christians and religious facilities.
In another attack on August 31st in Cabo Delgado, three civilians were beheaded along the banks of the Megaruma River. Additionally, on September 2nd, the militants also reportedly entered the village of Kutua destroying homes, tents, and the local health center.
This shows that the Islamists have both the desire and now the ability to expand their efforts beyond Cabo Delgado.
In an interview, Msgr. Ignacio Suare, the Archbishop of Nampula, stated “the population is disoriented and suffers a lot because they live in uncertainty and do not know what to do, many are fleeing but do not know where to go” — a stark assessment of the situation on the ground.
The Islamic State’s central leadership and media have also worked to promote the Mozambique branch. In the latest issue of its al-Naba weekly newsletter, for instance, it devotes an entire page to an infographic about attacks in Mozambique and Congo. The September 6th attack was listed as one of the most important attacks of the week, and in another infographic, titled “Harvest of the Soldiers”, the Mozambican branch is lauded for launching the third most attacks of any IS branch during the preceding week.
It is obvious that the Mozambican security forces do not have adequate training or equipment to deal with the insurgents. Therefore, the country requires external assistance from its allies and other regional partners.
On August 17th, SADC (Southern African Development Community) held its 42nd annual Summit of Heads of State and Government in Kinshasa. In the communique that was issued at the conclusion of the summit, two things stand out. First, the situation in Cabo Delgado was a briefing item. Secondly and most importantly the military mission that was deployed initially in 2021 was extended. But one interesting omission was that of a specific timeframe given for the extension.
The SADC is not the only actor that is concerned with events taking place in Mozambique. The EU is also showing concern over the situation in Cabo Delgado. In mid-August, the bloc announced that it was providing 15 million Euros to SAMIM (Southern African Mission in Mozambique). This contribution is seen as augmenting previous funding efforts by the EU. Already, the bloc has donated 1.9 million Euros to SAMIM and 89 million Euros have been provided to the Mozambican Defence Armed Forces (MDAF).
One member of the bloc that is expected to provide support to Mozambique is the former colonial power Portugal. Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa has just wrapped up a two-day official visit to the country. One key takeaway from this trip was the offer of support to Mozambique for assistance in counterterrorism efforts.
Another high-profile visitor from the EU to Mozambique was Josep Borrell, the High Representative/Vice President of the EU itself. In his press remark, Borrell stated that he wanted to visit Mozambique and was quoted as saying “I wanted to express the commitment and solidarity of the European Union with Mozambique in fighting against terrorism as looking for peace.” Aside from humanitarian concerns, the EU has economic interests as member states seek access to energy assets in the region.
The Mozambican government is struggling to contain the jihadist insurgency and needs partners to assist them in this effort. On top of this, the government’s capacity to deal with the militants is in part hindered by corruption and a range of other issues. Until these are resolved, Mozambique will continue to experience dire security challenges.