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World Mozambique jihadist insurgency rocks regional stability

20:21  08 april  2021
20:21  08 april  2021 Source:   afp.com

Mozambique jihadist insurgency rocks regional stability

  Mozambique jihadist insurgency rocks regional stability The violent escalation of an insurgency in northern Mozambique last month has whipped up fresh concerns about security in southern Africa, a region that has enjoyed relative stability in recent decades. Islamic State-linked militants raided the coastal town of Palma on March 24, forcing thousands of residents to flee to the surrounding forest and pushing France's Total to desert a nearby multi-billion-dollar gas project. The deftly-plannedIslamic State-linked militants raided the coastal town of Palma on March 24, forcing thousands of residents to flee to the surrounding forest and pushing France's Total to desert a nearby multi-billion-dollar gas project.

The violent escalation of an insurgency in northern Mozambique last month has whipped up fresh concerns about security in southern Africa, a region that has enjoyed relative stability in recent decades.

a person is walking down the street: Mozambique's authorities have insisted that Palma is now fully in government hands -- a claim widely disputed by analysts and sources on the ground © JOHN WESSELS Mozambique's authorities have insisted that Palma is now fully in government hands -- a claim widely disputed by analysts and sources on the ground

Islamic State-linked militants raided the coastal town of Palma on March 24, killing dozens and forcing thousands of residents to flee and pushing France's Total to desert a nearby multi-billion-dollar gas project.

a group of people sitting on a bed: In Northern Mozambique, hundreds of internally displaced people find shelter in a sports centre in Pemba, more than a week after jihadists staged a deadly raid on the northern Mozambican town of Palma. Many arrived at the shelter after hiding for days from the attackers. © Alfredo ZUNIGA In Northern Mozambique, hundreds of internally displaced people find shelter in a sports centre in Pemba, more than a week after jihadists staged a deadly raid on the northern Mozambican town of Palma. Many arrived at the shelter after hiding for days from the attackers.

The deftly planned assault marked a major intensification in an insurgency that has wreaked havoc across Cabo Delgado province for over three years as the jihadists seek to establish a caliphate.

Attack Mozambique: Concerns about the security situation in southern Africa

 Attack Mozambique: Concerns about the security situation in southern Africa © Alfredo Zuniga Residents of Palma in northern Mozambique, evacuated after the jihadist attack in their city, arrive in Pemba on April 1, 2021 the attack on Palma in northeastern Mozambique, considered a turning point in the violence inflicted by Jihadist armed groups since 2017, worries Southern Africa on the risk of safe instability for the region.

a building with a mountain in the background: Analysts fear the unrest could push international energy companies to fully abandon the Afungi gas site © Grant Lee Neuenburg Analysts fear the unrest could push international energy companies to fully abandon the Afungi gas site

Six presidents from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held emergency talks in the Mozambican capital Maputo.

In a concluding statement they said "such heinous attacks cannot be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response", but gave no details of their planned action.

Analysts say the stability of the wider region is at stake, as well as the spin-offs of a liquified natural gas (LNG) project on the Afungi peninsula -- the biggest single investment in Africa, led by Total.

"The hope is that Mozambique will open its doors to some practical assistance," said Crisis Group analyst Piers Pigou, noting that the country had so far only sought ad hoc help from other SADC members on a bilateral basis.

Mozambique attack survivors stranded as clashes break out

  Mozambique attack survivors stranded as clashes break out Sporadic clashes broke out in Palma on Tuesday as thousands of residents hid around the besieged northern Mozambique town, scrambling to escape the area overrun by jihadist militants, aid agencies said. "There are still sporadic clashes reported from Palma this morning," the UN humanitarian affairs agency OCHA said Tuesday, adding that "thousands" fled to the bush and sought refuge near the gas exploration site. © Alfredo Zuniga A few dozen people have managed to reach Pemba on their own in addition to around 1,400 ferried to the port by Total The raid on Palma was a major escalation in the insurgency by jihadists who have wreaked ha

Map of Mozambique locating the province of Cabo Delgado and the town of Palma. © Kun TIAN Map of Mozambique locating the province of Cabo Delgado and the town of Palma.

Convincing President Filipe Nyusi to stop playing "sovereignty politics" and cooperate with the bloc would be key to thwarting the insurgency, Pigou said.

"The question is whether it can be nipped in the bud at this juncture without spreading further," he added.

On the eve of the SADC talks, Nyusi said his government was "evaluating" its needs for external support, cautioning: "It's not about empty pride, it's about a sense of sovereignty".

The president added: "No war is won if it is not clear from the start, (about) what must be done by our country and what must be done by the allies."

- 'On our doorstep' -

While Mozambique's jihadists have so far remained relatively contained, their 2018 allegiance to the Islamic State group has raised fears of a more expansive agenda and more sophisticated tactics.

UN warns Tanzania not to reject people fleeing Mozambique

  UN warns Tanzania not to reject people fleeing Mozambique More than 1,000 people fleeing an attack on Palma were not allowed to cross into Tanzania to seek asylum, the UN says.The March 24 attack on the town of Palma, adjacent to gas developments worth $60bn, sent the town’s residents scattering in all directions, with some fleeing into dense forest while others escaped by boat.

Mozambican civil society activist Adriano Nuvunga said the fallout of a worsening insurgency could be momentous.

"If Mozambique was to collapse, it could be used by all sorts of groups as a transit point to affect the region," he warned.

The southeast African country on the Indian Ocean shares borders with Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Eswatini and Zimbabwe.

"The borders with Mozambique are huge and not easy to manage," said Tanzanian independent analyst Kennedy Mmari, warning that the insurgency could "accelerate" extremism in his country.

Mozambique's jihadists have already targeted parts of southern Tanzania, including a deadly raid on the city of Mtwara last October.

Most of the group's foreign recruits are thought to come from Tanzania.

"It's on our doorstep," said South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies researcher Liesl Louw-Vaudran.

"It would be a huge issue if there was a growing insurgency in southern Africa, where we haven't really seen any violent extremism," she said.

The most vulnerable countries are those adjacent to Cabo Delgado, Louw-Vaudran said, singling out Malawi alongside Tanzania.

Over 5,000 Mozambique attack survivors find refuge : UN

  Over 5,000 Mozambique attack survivors find refuge : UN More than 5,000 people have reached safety outside the northern Mozambican town of Palma a week after it was besieged by jihadists, the UN said Wednesday, as thousands remained stranded. Armed militants raided the coastal town on March 24, ransacking buildings and beheading residents as thousands fled into surrounding forest. Dozens have been killed and many more are still missing in a coordinated attack seen as the biggest escalation of an Islamist insurgency that has battered Cabo Delgado province since 2017."As of yesterday afternoon there were 5,360 displaced people...

But she noted the risk of territorial expansion remained "quite limited" for the time being, as the jihadists seemed more prone to spreading further into Mozambique than crossing borders.

- Gas at stake -

Security concerns are compounded by the insurgency's proximity to the LNG project, originally scheduled to go on stream in 2024, before the Palma attack.

These "world-class gas reserves" were meant to turn Mozambique into an "energy giant" in a region seeking to boost and diversify its energy supply, Nuvunga said.

Analysts fear the unrest could push the international energy companies to fully abandon the LNG site, and deter future investments in the area.

Trade corridors are also threatened.

Analysts pointed to the corridor linking landlocked Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to Mozambique's Beira port, and the Cahora Bassa hydroelectric dam -- the largest in southern Africa -- located in northwestern Mozambique.

If the insurgency is not tackled,  "it can hijack resource development in the region," Nuvunga said.

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In Mali, ICC prosecutor savours ruling to punish Timbuktu destruction .
Wearing a green head-dress matching her African robes, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, visited Timbuktu on a mission to turn the page on a chapter of cultural desecration. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Sahara trading post flourished as a centre of Islamic culture -- in Western cultures, it was often a name shrouded in mysticism and remoteness. In 2012, Timbuktu hit the headlines for quite different reasons.The town was occupied by the jihadist group Ansar Eddine, which took pickaxes to 14 of the town's famous mausoleums of Muslim saints.

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