’Disgruntled’ groups could be behind Mozambique attacks

A sign post for the town of Palma in the restive Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique. Picture: Club of Mozambique/Twitter

A sign post for the town of Palma in the restive Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique. Picture: Club of Mozambique/Twitter

Published Apr 9, 2021


Durban -Muslim leaders in South Africa do not believe that an insurgency group is behind the recent attacks in Mozambique.

Militants, believed to be linked to the Islamic State (IS), began attacking Palma in the Cabo Delgado province. There were previous militant attacks in the area from an IS-affiliated group known as al-Shabaab. Cabo Delgado is a gas-manufacturing hub.

During the attack, more than 200 workers, including foreign employees, had to evacuate the Amarula Lodge Hotel where they had taken refuge.

Naeem Jeena, the director of the Afro-Middle East Centre, said the north of the area, where the attacks took place, had a vast number of Muslim people and that they often felt marginalised by the government.

“People living there don't seem to get the services they need, including jobs, and they feel marginalised. This is the same area where the gas reserve and rubies were found a decade ago.

“The locals see other people from other countries working there, while they are unemployed, and it can be frustrating. The attacks could also have been from the disgruntled community themselves."

Faisul Sulieman, of the South African Muslim Network (Samnet), said the claim by the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa that the attacks were by the IS and the IS-linked al-Shabaab was spurious and speculative.

“It has not been uncommon for the Institute for Security Studies to make unfounded allegations of a presence of IS in South Africa and southern Africa without providing actual evidence. The reality is that the area (Cabo Delgado) has been characterised for years by absolute and complete corruption, negligence and, most recently, brutal oppression by the Mozanbiquan government.

“The finding of huge reserves of gas resulted in foreign multinationals scrambling for those reserves at the expense of local people, who have not seen the benefit that their own natural resources can bring them.

“We firmly believe that any organisation or institution that makes claims of any substantive link on the presence of IS – so-called Isis fighters in South Africa – must provide evidence, so that our security forces can investigate and the long arm of the law must take its course.”

Sulieman said Samnet was not convinced that there were IS fighters in any southern African region.

“This is more a conflict about resources and a disgruntled local population than it is about some establishment of any Islamic state or caliphate in southern Africa. It's actually laughable when the vast or overwhelming majority of Muslims have nothing but abhorrence for IS.”

Ganief Hendrick, an MPL and the president of the Al Jama-ah party, said: “We have been keeping our ears to the ground with what has been going on in Mozambique. We have four moulanas and four university professors there, that we have been talking with, and by Monday evening, I was told that everything is quiet and peaceful in the area.

"Some media is saying that there are IS groups causing destruction and violence in the area but it's not true. The truth is that this gas, which could potentially be the biggest gas resource, was found and now every country wants part of it, so they created this violence to remove people from the area, so they could get more of the land to work on. People cannot make a call that IS is moving in on Africa. There's no place for IS and Africa is already a Muslim continent.“

Martin Ewi, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said the attack, which led to families fleeing their homes, was later claimed by the IS.

“This is true terrorism that's going on there. The attacks in Cabo Delgado have been ongoing since 2019 and most of it is because of people's grievances with poor service delivery, corruption and poor management by the Mozambique government. What is going on in Mozambique is concerning. It's not just a Mozambique issue but all countries should be concerned about it because terrorism is like rain. It does not rain in one area. It rains everywhere and insurgency can happen anywhere."

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