Mozambique Arrests Suspected Militants

Mozambican authorities have arrested three suspected members of an insurgency in northern Mozambique.

On January 25, Mozambican police announced the arrest of three Ugandan nationals, who are accused of participation in a growing insurgency in northern Cabo Delgado Province. Two men and a woman were arrested, All Africa reported. One of the men, Abdul Rahman Faisal, confirmed his membership in al-Shabaab in Uganda, but denied the charges against him, saying, “We are not part of those people who go around committing murder. I don’t support them.”

The authorities have rejected his denials. Without further details, provincial police spokesman Zacarias Nacuti said the arrests and information gained from the suspects have “allowed the defense and security forces to overrun some camps which the criminals used as bases for their incursions.”

Since 2017, Mozambican security forces have battled an insurgency by a group called Ansar al-Sunna (and referred to by locals as “al-Shabaab,” though without seeming connection to the Somalia-based group of the same name) in northern Cabo Delgado Province, which is adjacent to Tanzania. Ansar al-Sunna aims to overthrow the Mozambican government and replace the governing system with a radical interpretation of Sharia law.

Ansar al-Sunna has primarily carried out small-scale violence, but its attacks have resulted in the deaths of dozens and displacement of at least a thousand people. Mozambican authorities have arrested hundreds, including nationals of other countries in the East Africa region, and began holding trials in October 2018.

In August 2018, President Filipe Nyusi acknowledged that “unemployment and poverty” are important factors with respect to the insurgency, while analysts also point to governmental corruption as a driving factor.

Cabo Delgado possesses significant mineral wealth, including offshore energy resources, but the province is generally underdeveloped. Mozambique hopes that its energy reserves, once infrastructure is developed, can bolster the country’s export position. Insurgent violence, however, may inhibit investment in the region.

About Derek Bisaccio

Military markets analyst, covering Eurasia, Middle East, and Africa.

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