Is another Boko Haram or al-Shabaab erupting in Mozambique?

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The Institute for Security Studies: A sudden upsurge in brutal violence in northern Mozambique, including the beheadings of women and children, has sounded alarms that a violent jihadist movement like Boko Haram or al-Shabaab could be evolving. Since October last year, over 50 people have been killed in about 20 attacks in Cabo Delgado province on the Tanzania border.

Gruesome footage of headless and mutilated bodies has been circulating on social media, accelerating an exodus of citizens from the region. Multinational energy companies poised to exploit Cabo Delgado’s huge liquefied natural gas reserves have paused. Fears are growing that the violence could sabotage the exploitation of this valuable resource which remains Mozambique’s one great hope for defeating poverty.

Those allegedly responsible for the attacks apparently call themselves Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jamâ (often abbreviated to al-Sunnah). Locals dub them al-Shabaab, even though the group doesn’t seem to be formally affiliated to its more famous Somali namesake.

Has full-blown violent Islamist extremism arrived in Mozambique, and indeed in southern Africa? Or are these just poor, marginalised locals presenting ordinary crimes as something else? Or are they perhaps the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) in disguise? Or, even more cynically, are mercenaries deliberately stoking violence to win a lucrative contract to protect the natural gas industry?


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