Cape Times

Islamist attacks in Mozambique

Insurgency ‘spreading’

- – Paul Fauvet for Independen­t Foreign Service

AN UNIDENTIFI­ED group, believed to be islamic fundamenta­lists, attacked a village in Nangade district, in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado on Monday night, killing two people and injuring a third.

Nangade borders on Mocimboa da Praia and Palma districts, where there have also been islamist attacks. Despite the police offer of an amnesty, the insurgency appears to be spreading.

The spokespers­on for the General Command of the Mozambican police, Inacio Dina, confirmed the attack on Tuesday.

Dina said that one of those killed was a worker at a Nangade health post, and the second was the wife of a local businessma­n. He said the raiders vandalised several buildings in the village of Nkonga and stole all the medicines from the health post.

Local sources said the group also stole food from stalls in the Nkonga market. When they left, they took eight motorbikes and 10 goats.

“The defence and security forces are on the ground, pursuing the group,” said Dina. “They intend to arrest the attackers, hold them responsibl­e for their acts, and recover the stolen property.”

The Islamist insurgency began with co-ordinated attacks on three police premises in Mocimboa da Praia on October 5. Although the police quickly regained control of Mocimboa town, sporadic attacks have continued, and have now spread to the two neighbouri­ng districts.

On Saturday night, the insurgents attacked the Olumbe administra­tive post in Palma, killing five people and wounding a further 11.

Two days later came the attack in Nangade.

The police have been reluctant to blame the same group for all the attacks, with Dina claiming it would be “premature” to draw that conclusion.

But sources on the ground in Cabo Delgado have no doubt that all the raids are the work of an Islamic fundamenta­list group, referred to locally as “Al-Shabaab” (although it does not seem to have any direct connection with the Somali terrorist group of that name).

So far, the police have detained more than 300 people in connection with the attacks.

Dina said most of them were Mozambican­s, but the group also contains foreigners, mainly Tanzanians. Both Palma and Nangade districts border on Tanzania.

The general commander of the Mozambican police, Bernadino Rafael, visited Dar es Salaam on Monday and signed a protocol with his Tanzanian counterpar­t, Simon Nyankoro Sirro, for co-operation in the fight against terrorism, and cross-border crime.

The protocol lists a large number of crimes, but there can be little doubt that the most important provision is that the two police forces must give a combined response to incursions by terrorist groups.

This clause will allow the Mozambican defence and security forces to call on Tanzanian assistance in the fight against Islamic fundamenta­lists in Cabo Delgado.

Last month Rafael gave the Islamists seven days to surrender and hand over their weapons.

Those who refused to do so would be regarded as terrorists and would be hunted down, he warned.

It is unclear whether any Islamists took up his offer of amnesty, which expired on December 22: certainly, the police did not announce that any had done so.

The attacks must be a matter of great concern to the authoritie­s, because Palma is the nearest district to the enormous offshore discoverie­s of natural gas, which could transform Mozambique into the world’s third-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas.

A new port will be built at Palma, and gas processing plants will be built on Palma’s Afungi Peninsula.

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