World in View: ISIS in Mozambique

November 24, 2020

From the November-December 2020 issue of News & Letters

In early November, terrorists linked to Daesh, the “Islamic State,” beheaded up to 50 villagers, men and boys, in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado. Called al-Shabab by local residents, the insurgency that began in 2017 with machetes and barefoot fighters has escalated with sophisticated arms and foreign trainers who were driven out of Iraq and Syria.

The conflict has created over 400,000 refugees in a region already marked by food shortages and health crises.

In response to the gruesome attacks by these ISIS-linked terrorists, the Mozambican security forces have also begun to commit atrocities. As Amnesty International reported in September, there is evidence of torture of prisoners, even attempted beheadings, the dismemberment of alleged ISIS fighters, extrajudicial executions, and mass graves.


In recent months the group has managed to capture, and sometimes hold, a number of important towns. This includes Mocimboa da Praia, close to the offshore natural gas fields tapped by international energy companies. They consider this their new capital.

In September, ISIS terrorists also captured the luxury resort Vamizi Island, with its expensive hotels built by South Africa’s rich and favored by celebrity actors and athletes. Energy companies in the area have had to move their offshore drilling facilities to avoid attacks. Economic threats like this have spurred the governments of Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and South Africa, among others, to see the insurgency as a regional crisis.

Cabo Delgado has extensive energy resources, along with some mineral wealth, but that hasn’t benefited the local population. High unemployment helps fuel the insurgency.

—Gerry Emmett

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