Mozambique’s defence minister, Cristóvão Chume, said on Wednesday that he expects “some escalation” in the actions of terrorists in Cabo Delgado province, in the north of the country, as an act of revenge for the recent death in combat of their commanders.
“We expect a further escalation, but we can guarantee that we will continue to fight,” said Chume.
The defence minister was speaking at the conference “Mobilising collective intelligence to combat and prevent violent extremism and terrorism in Africa – African solutions to African problems”, which kicked off today in the Mozambican capital.
Cristóvão Chume said that the government was “completely certain” that the insurgents would “take revenge” for the death in combat, at the end of August, of the main leader of the insurgency in Cabo Delgado province, Mozambican Bonomade Machude Omar, along with other members of the terrorist group’s leadership.
Chume pointed to the murder of 12 people this month in the district of Mocímboa da Praia as proof of the insurgents’ vengeful actions following the “operational pressure” being exerted by Mozambican, southern African and Rwandan government forces.
“We are aware that the elimination of terrorist commanders alone does not mean the end of terrorism,” stressed the Mozambican defence minister.
This challenge, he continued, also requires other actions, such as creating social and economic opportunities for the communities affected by the armed violence in Cabo Delgado.
The minister pointed out that the Mozambican defence and security forces must continue to improve their operational capabilities, reiterating the request for help from international partners in terms of training and the supply of “lethal material”.
Emphasising the spread of terrorism and violent extremism in Africa, Cristóvão Chume stressed the importance of the continent’s countries intensifying cooperation and the exchange of information to combat local groups.
The province of Cabo Delgado has been facing armed insurgency for almost six years, with some attacks claimed by the extremist group Islamic State.
On the ground in Cabo Delgado, the Mozambique armed forces have been fighting terrorism – in attacks that have been taking place since October 2017 and which have affected the progress of natural gas production projects in the region – since July 2021, with support from Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The conflict in northern Mozambique has already displaced one million people, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and caused around 4,000 deaths, according to the ACLED conflict registration project, while the Mozambican president has conceded “more than 2,000” fatalities.