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US: “The Islamic State Extremist Group Carried Out 384 Attacks in Mozambique in 2021”

US: “The Islamic State Extremist Group Carried Out 384 Attacks in Mozambique in 2021”

The extremist group Islamic State carried out a total of 384 attacks in Mozambique in 2021, resulting in 1127 deaths among civilians, Mozambican armed forces and fighters, according to a US State Department report released today, Tuesday, February 28.

According to the 2021 report from the counterterrorism office of the US diplomatic office for terrorist activities around the world, the year under review was marked by the seizure of Palma, capital of the northern province of Cabo Delgado, by the Islamic State in Mozambique (EI-M) in March of that year, and the response of the joint forces of the Mozambican and Rwandan armed forces, which “recovered significant amounts of territory” under the control of the terrorist group.

On 24 March 2021, IS-M attacked the city of Palma “creating thousands of internally displaced persons as it expanded its control over the province” and in response, TotalEnergies suspended its natural gas development operations in the Afungi peninsula, the report notes.

From July of the same year, however, the deployment of forces belonging to the mission in Mozambique of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Rwandan Defence Forces (RDF) “helped the Mozambican Defence and Security Forces (FDS) to regain territory, including Palma and Mocímboa da Praia, a strategic port city that IS-M had seized in 2020.”

This response also allowed the Mozambican government to announce on 30 November of that year the “capture of 245 suspected terrorists and the elimination of 200 terrorists in combat”.

“In November and December, the extremist group moved for the first time from Cabo Delgado province to Niassa province, where it “attacked several villages in the districts of Mecula and Marrupa”

In contrast, the dispersal of the terrorist group is at the origin of several attacks on villages, including in two districts of Niassa province, neighbouring Cabo Delgado, the State Department points out.

The report estimates that IS-M has some 800 operatives active in northern Mozambique and the broad term IS-M used in the report includes entities as diverse as the armed groups Ansar al-Sunna, Tradition Helpers, Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jamaa and al-Shabaab in Mozambique, amongst others.

The report details the main terrorist incidents that occurred in 2021, starting with the attack and seizure of Palma on 24 March of that year, which led to the displacement of 50 000 people.

On 12 September, IS-M ambushed a convoy of Rwandan forces in the district of Mocímboa da Praia, killing four Rwandan soldiers and wounding six others, and on 2 October, it kidnapped seven women from the village of Nacate in the district of Macomia, south of Mocímboa da Praia.

In November and December, the extremist group first moved from Cabo Delgado province to Niassa province, where it “attacked several villages in Mecula and Marrupa districts,” according to the text from the State Department, equivalent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“On 15 December, the IS-M reportedly beheaded a Christian pastor in Macomia district and ordered his wife to hand over his head to the Mozambican Defence and Security Forces,” the report details.

The document notes the legislative changes in the framework for combating terrorism introduced by the Mozambican government, particularly in the penal framework for terrorism within borders, but does not recognise “significant changes in 2021” in the ability to implement the new legal framework, just as it stresses that “border security continued to be a challenge for Mozambique, with no significant changes” in the year under review.

The fight against terrorist financing deserves a particularly negative note from the US State Department, resulting from the observation of “important technical compliance gaps” and the lack of a National Risk Assessment (NRA), so the country risks being placed on the “grey list” of countries publicly named as deficient in preventing and combating illicit financial measures.

The Mozambican government “has begun to address these gaps by drafting new laws on domestic terrorism, money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as an NRA, although all were pending completion at the end of the year,” the report notes.

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