At least 400,000 people have fled jihadi backed militant attacks in northern Mozambique, the United Nations refugee agency said, warning that the crisis could quickly spread beyond the country’s borders if regional neighbours did not help tackle the insurgency.
Mozambique’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, home to gas developments worth some $60 billion, is grappling with an insurgency linked to Islamic State that has gathered pace this year, with insurgents regularly taking on the army and seizing entire towns.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba said leaders from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, SA, Botswana and Tanzania were set to meet in Maputo on Monday over the insurgency.
424,000 people have fled the insurgency to Niassa, Nampula and Pempa and that the number could rise. Mozambican authorities put the figure at 570,000.
“Sadc is fast moving towards a subregional response against Islamic insurgency, an initiative which started when President Emmerson Mnangagwa was chairman of the Sadc Organ on Defence, Politics and Security,” he said.
The Defence ministry said Zimbabwe will contribute troops and equipment to a Sadc brigade once the leaders sanctioned the intervention.
“Intervention in that conflict will be done within the framework of the Sadc brigade,” the Ministry said in response to reports claiming that plans by Zimbabwe’s military to deploy troops in Mozambique were at an advanced stage.
Ansar al-Sunna (transl. Supporters of the tradition), al-Shabaab, Ahlu al-Sunna, and Swahili Sunna,is an Islamist militant group active in Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique.The group has attacked security forces and civilians in an attempt to establish an Islamic state in the area. Ansar al-Sunna’s name is similar to the name of an Iraqi Sunni insurgent group that fought against US troops between 2003 and 2007. Locals call them “al-Shabaab” but they are a separate organization from Somali Al-Shabaab.
The group was reportedly formed in Cabo Delgado by followers of the radical Kenyan cleric Aboud Rogo Mohammed who resettled in Mozambique following his death in 2012. The group became increasingly violent in 2017, carrying out attacks on government and civilian targets.Though a 2019 video depicted militants professing allegiance to ISIL, members rarely refer to themselves as part of that group. Propaganda is seldom issued by Ansar-al-Sunna.Funding for the group is raised from illegal smuggling, religious networks, and people-traffickers.
Ansar al-Sunna militants were trained by ex-policemen, and ex-frontier guards who had been fired and held grudges against the government. The movement also contacted other Islamist militants in East Africa, and reportedly hired al-Shabaab trainers from Somalia, Tanzania, and Kenya. These al-Shabaab trainers acted as mercenaries, however, and aided Ansar al-Sunna due to the pay they received from the latter.Some of the Ansar al-Sunna militants have also journeyed abroad to receive direct training by other militant groups.
Members of Ansar al-Sunna are reportedly mostly Mozambicans from the Mocimboa da Praia, Palma and Macomia districts, but also include foreign nationals from Tanzania and Somalia. The militants are known to speak Portuguese, the official language of Mozambique, Kimwane, the local language, and Swahili, the lingua franca language spoken in the Great Lakes region.