Al-Shabaab. The group was recently cataloged by the US State Department as a terrorist group with links to ISIS.
The militants of the Islamic jihadist group Al-Shabaab who attacked the city of Palma in northern Mozambique this week, killing and wounding several residents and also workers in gas exploration projects in the region – which led to the French energy giant Total suspending work on the site – have terrified the province of Cabo Delgado over the past three years.
In October 2017, about 30 armed men launched an operation against three police stations in Mocímboa da Praia, a port city in the province of Cabo Delgado, a predominantly Muslim region on the border with Tanzania.
“We all knew they were dangerous, but we never thought they would be able to wage war,” said a local imam, who then lived in Mocímboa da Praia – about 80 kilometers south of Palma.
Three years later, the conflict has taken root and the Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama (ASWJ) group, also known as Al-Shabaab, unleashed a humanitarian crisis similar to that caused by the times of civil war in Mozambique (1977-1992). The attacks by the jihadist group have already claimed at least 2600 deaths, half of them civilians, and have resulted in almost 700,000 displaced people.
Last year, Islamic insurgents began to increase the frequency and violence of their attacks and to publish videos of combatants waving black flags and swearing loyalty to ISIS, the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Last August, they again took the city of Mocímboa da Praia, which is still under the group’s control.
Al-Shabaab’s tactics involved burning villages and decapitating locals as Mozambican troops struggle to regain land in the remote forest province, with the help of private military companies.
With this week’s attack, the rebels are trying to take control of the village of Palma, just ten kilometers from the nerve center of the natural gas megaproject that represents one of Africa’s biggest investments, led by the French energy group Total.
Armed rebels invaded Palma, a coastal village of about 75,000, from three different directions, on the afternoon of March 24. Residents and about 200 workers at the gas exploration plant were forced to flee and seek refuge at the Amarula hotel, from where they later tried to leave for the gas exploration project’s facilities, with at least seven of them being killed in an ambush. , in which a Portuguese was also injured (see box).
Authorities were aware of the impending attack “because there was information that an attack would occur at least three days earlier”, but they did nothing to prevent it, the senior investigator at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Martin told AFP. Ewi.
Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the rebels “shot indiscriminately at people and buildings”, leaving several bodies lying on the street.
The calculated and violent attack broke a three-month hiatus in jihadist attacks and occurred exactly two weeks after the US State Department cataloged Al-Shabaab with an IS-linked terrorist group, which it will have “sworn allegiance to in April. 2018 “.
The US intelligence services blacklisted the name, Abu Yasir Hassan, assigning him the role of leader of ISIS-Mozambique.
Thousands of Mozambican soldiers have been deployed to Cabo Delgado, but Mozambique’s ability to fight the insurgency has long been questioned, with analysts pointing to the lack of training and equipment by government troops. The government has hired a private South African military company, Dyck Advisory Group (DAG), which is also reportedly being helped by Wagner’s Russian mercenaries.
The United States announced this month that the US military would spend two months training soldiers in Mozambique to help the country fight the jihadist insurgency. Alexander Raymakers, senior analyst for Africa at the UK-based risk intelligence firm Verisk Maplecroft, suggested that jihadists “used the three-month hiatus in the attacks” to prepare for a “high-level” operation in Palma.
“It is a clear demonstration that Al-Shabaab has constantly increased its military capabilities, grown in sophistication, and maintains the initiative.”
Source: with Agencies