ISIS group claims to take part in insurgency in Mozambique, Maputo denies

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed for the first time that it was involved in recent fighting with the Mozambican army in the north of the country in the grip of a bloody Islamist insurgency since late 2017, which the security forces Mozambique categorically denied on Wednesday.

For a year and a half, the extreme north of the country, mostly Muslim and rich in gas, is the scene of a wave of violence attributed to radicals who advocate a strict application of Islamic law. More than 200 people were killed, including with machetes, or burned alive in village raids and ambushes on the roads.

The identity and motivations of the attackers, who have never claimed their actions, remain an enigma.

But in a statement translated Tuesday night by the SITE Intelligence Group specializing in the monitoring of Islamist websites, the group EI claimed, for the first time, operate in Mozambique.

“Caliphate soldiers have been able to repel an attack by the Mozambican Crusader army in the village of Metubi” in northern Mozambique on Monday, the group said. “They confronted them with a variety of weapons, killing and wounding a number of them. (…) The mujahideen seized weapons, ammunition and rockets as booty.”

The Mozambican police have denied these claims. “The information (of the IS) is not true,” said police spokesman Orlando Mudumane on Wednesday. “The security forces are positioned throughout the Mozambican territory” to conduct several operations to ensure continuous security, “he said.

The army and the police have clearly muscled their presence in the province of Cabo Delgado (north), the scene of attacks attributed to Islamists, to put them out of harm’s way. Until now in vain.

For the month of May alone, the mysterious group referred to by the local population as “al-shabab” – “young people” in Arabic – killed at least 40 people, wounded dozens of others and burned hundreds of people. houses, according to an AFP count.

– “Propaganda” –

No independent source could confirm or deny Wednesday a clash earlier this week between the army and Islamists in the village of Metubi.

The information in northern Mozambique is very difficult to obtain, especially given the repression of journalists in the region by the Mozambican authorities.

But experts interviewed by AFP have denounced a “propaganda”.

“It is normal to hear such a claim,” said Fernando Jorge Cardoso (Lisbon University Institute). “It’s good for IS because they say they’re expanding, and it’s good for the group (in Mozambique) because they feel they’re part of a larger movement. It’s propaganda, but it makes sense. “

This claim “does not mean” in any case “that there has been a movement of people or armed men” to Mozambique, he said.

“The Islamic State is not in Mozambique, (…) but it may have links in Mozambique,” added another expert on condition of anonymity.

In his statement, the IS makes a gross geographical error, he noted. The group claims that the village of Metubi, where the clashes occurred, is in the Mocimboa region. Metubi is located in the district of Quissanga, about 100 kilometers from Mocimboa.

The date of publication of the communique is not innocuous, added the expert. It coincides with Eid, marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Since the demise of its self-proclaimed physical caliphate in Syria and Iraq, the EI group has been trying to compensate with an increased presence on the internet, according to analysts.

“By the time they have lost their state, their army, their administration, the IS is trying to show that it has links with groups from all over the world, they always have a website and they try to say + We no longer exist, but now we are everywhere + But in the end, it’s purely propaganda, “said the second expert.

Source: Seychelles News Agency