Islamic State celebrates expansion in Mozambique despite continued counter-terrorism operations in Cabo Delgado

Key points

  • Event: The Islamic State celebrated its territorial expansion in Mozambique in the latest edition of its weekly online newspaper al-Naba,calling for the Christian population to convert to Islam or pay the Islamic tax
  • Significance: The focus of the edition was likely influenced by the series of counter-insurgency operations and assurance of presidential pardons to militants upon surrender, consequently leading to at least 90 defections in northern Mozambique between September and October 2022
  • Outlook: Despite the efforts of regional and Mozambican security forces, Wilayat Mozambique will likely continue to remain a threat in Cabo Delgado Province in the medium term, as its recent operations demonstrate an expansion beyond its typical areas of operations in the province


    On 17 November, the Islamic State in its latest issue of al-Naba applauded the successful expansion of Wilayat Mozambique, or Mozambique Province, in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado Province. In the editorial, the group highlighted its targeting of mining projects and hinted focus on maritime jihad. Janes observed an image on Twitter on 21 November purportedly showing an alleged handwritten letter distributed by Wilayat Mozambique militants in the Mocamia district of Cabo Delgado Province, urging the Christian population in the country to either convert to Islam or pay the ‘Jizya' tax to ensure their safety. In October 2022, the Islamic State had claimed attacks on four villages with Christian majority in Macomia (Nguida and Litandacua villages), Muidumbe (Mandava village), and Nangade (Ntoli village) districts in northern Cabo Delgado.


    The timing of Wilayat Mozambique's celebration of the success of its operations reported in al-Naba was likely used to reaffirm the Islamic State's expansion in Mozambique and coincides with reports of ‘successful' operations conducted by the security forces, including troops from the Mozambican armed forces, the Rwanda Defence Force, and the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), to dismantle the militant group. Mozambican state media reported on 19 October 2022 that the Mozambican Defence and Security Forces (FDS) raided a militant hideout a week before in the Mbau Administrative Post, northern Cabo Delgado, seizing a cache of weapons, including light and heavy ammunition. Rwandan media reported that, on 16 October 2022, the Rwanda Defence Force found a hidden stock of hundreds of weapons – including rockets, small arms, and ammunition – linked to Wilayat Mozambique militants in the Mbau forest in the Mocimboa da Praia district of Cabo Delgado. On 14 November, Mozambique's Minister of National Defence Cristóvão Chume reiterated the group's fractured operational capabilities and announced that there were no permanent militant bases left in Cabo Delgado Province.

    The Islamic State's emphasis on success in Mozambique is likely a response to the September 2022 announcement by Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi granting amnesty to militants upon voluntary surrender, which led to at least 90 defections between September and October, including an alleged senior member of Wilayat Mozambique, Mozambican media reported on 20 October 2022.

    Despite these setbacks, the latest issue of al-Naba emphasised the Islamic State's highlighting of the ‘failures' of Mozambique's government, even with the support of regional security forces and local militia groups. A spike in militant attacks in the southern districts of Cabo Delgado, especially areas, which previously had not recorded any militant attacks, demonstrates Wilayat Mozambique's territorial expansion in the province. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the killing of at least five people during attacks by its Wilayat Mozambique affiliate in Murrameia village in Namuno district on 29 October, as well as Muripa, Mualia, and Marica villages in Balama district between 12 and 14 November, marking the first militant attacks recorded in the districts since the beginning of the insurgency in 2017. The resurgence of a local armed group identified as Naparama – earlier active in northern and central Mozambique during the FRELIMO-RENAMO civil war in the 1980s – in Namuno district in early November 2022 further indicates the expansion of Wilayat Mozambique's operations in Cabo Delgado. According to a 17 November report from the Mozambican Zambeze newspaper, as quoted by BBC Monitoring on 18 November, the revival of the group was necessary because “despite the progress made by the [Mozambican] Defence and Security Forces, with the support of the foreign troops in the northern operational theatre, the terrorists continue to make victims in the forests”.

    The Islamic State has also celebrated its successes in targeting two mining projects in southern Cabo Delgado in 2022 through its communication channels. On 8 June, the militants targeted an Australian graphite mine operated by Triton Minerals in Ancuabe district in southern Cabo Delgado. On 20 October, the militants attacked a ruby mine, owned by mining company Gemrock in Montepuez district in southern Cabo Delgado, forcing the company to suspend its operations. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on 9 November.


    Janes assesses that the group is likely to continue targeting the Christian civilian population across Cabo Delgado, as well as the mining infrastructure, despite the Mozambican government's assurances that the province is under control. Wilayat Mozambique will also likely seek to further expand beyond its typical areas of operations in Cabo Delgado Province, especially in the southern districts, as demonstrated by the attacks in October and November. The continued threat of Wilayat Mozambique in the province is highlighted by the presence of local militia groups to tackle the insurgency in the region. In addition to the resurgence of Naparama in November, Mozambican media reported on 31 October 2022 that a local armed group identified as the ‘Local Force' had killed 18 militants in the Nangade district in northern Cabo Delgado Province on 27 October 2022. Local media outlet Carta de Moçambique said in its 23 November report that, on 22 November, Mozambique's government passed a bill intended to legalise the operations of Local Force, consisting of former combatants of the national liberation struggle and volunteers from the communities, to support the security forces in countering the insurgency in Cabo Delgado. However, a formal organisational, operational, and oversight structure has not been designed yet.

    (Note: Items from news/wire services are abstracted from the originals and are not verbatim)

    Islamic State celebrates expansion in Mozambique despite continued counter-terrorism operations in C...

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