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Why is Islamic State attacking Cabo Delgado?

After declaring that Islamic State (IS) has been defeated, one place where a form of IS has re-emerged is northern Mozambique in a place called Cabo Delgado. Although previously thought to be defeated, the group's followers, ideals and beliefs did not ever leave and Islamic States Central African Provision (ISCAP) was born as the African version of the Islamic State.

On the 5th August 2020 ISCAP insurgents attacked the port town of Mocimboa da Praia in Northern Mozambique seizing control from the security forces. In the conflict 1,500 people were killed and over 300,000 displaced with many more wounded. ISCAP then declared the town as their new capital with the intention of duplicating the model in Aleppo in Syria where they used their new base to raise their profile internationally.

So how did Islamic State end up in Mozambique?

The insurgency didn't begin in Mozambique, it originated in Mombasa in Kenya when the hardline Islamic cleric Aboud Rugo Mohammed was killed in August 2012. A well known Al-Shabaab supporter on the UN sanctions list, he promoted extremism and recruited from across Africa helping them to bypass authorities to travel to Somalia to be trained. After the shooting, his supporters fled South across the Kenyan border and into the Kibiti area of Tanzania where they regrouped. Some members went even further South into Northern Mozambique, here they joined forces with another hardline religious group and renamed themselves Ansar Al Sunna.

In October 2017 the group attacked Police Stations in the town of Mocimboa da Praia that would later become their new base. As the group grew in numbers more attacks against security forces and pro-government civilians were launched across northern Mozambique and in 2019 Ansar Al Sunna swore their allegiance to the Islamic State.

Why Cabo Delgado?

In recent years international oil companies have discovered the largest offshore natural gas field next to Cabo Delgado and several multi billion dollar companies have established themselves there. The Northern state is also home to the biggest ruby mine in the world with both the gemstones and gas bringing in a considerably sized income for the government.

The coast of Cabo Delgado is also widely used as a smuggling area bringing heroin in from Asia making large amounts of money for the insurgents and criminal gangs.

Mozambique is also the 6th poorest nation in the world with local citizens feeling like they do not see any of the benefits from their resource rich area encouraging resentment towards the government and international residents.

Cabo Delgado is also a predominately Muslim area compared to the high numbers of Christians in the rest of the country.

With all of these factors combined, this makes Cabo Delgado a very attractive place for IS to establish their stronghold within the continent of Africa.

Palma Under Siege - March 2021

On Wednesday the 24th March 2021, insurgents launched an ongoing attack seizing the town of Palma close to the French Total oil company headquarters. In the past week it is reported that over 1,500 civilians were killed, hundreds wounded and thousands of others displaced, fleeing the violence. Humanitarian aid agencies have now started to try and help people out of the area.

Foreign nationals employed in the oil industry fled to the Amarula Palma hotel for safety and on Friday the 26th March they attempted to flee the area in a vehicle convoy which was then attacked by the insurgents. A South African national was confirmed dead and a body was found believed to be a British national called Phillip Mawer who was employed by RA International.

With the city-siege ongoing and all communications cut off, news from the area is scarce.

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