The brutal attacks in Mozambique are a 'game-changer' and imperil a whole country's financial future
March 30, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.
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The assault over the last week by Islamist militants on a town in northern Mozambique is the most serious and deadly in their four-year insurgency -- and directly threatens the country's economic future.
People who escaped the town of Palma in Cabo Delgado province speak of dozens of bodies scattered on the streets -- some beheaded, of buildings burned to the ground, banks raided and the local army barracks ransacked.
The group that carried out the attack is known locally as Shabaab -- the Youth -- but little is known about its ideology or organization.
Alexandre Raymakers, senior Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, says the group's "ability to hit multiple targets simultaneously in a three-pronged approach and the use of small arms fire combined with mortar fire to overwhelm government forces in just a couple of hours shows enhanced command and control and discipline. "
Five years ago, Shabaab was a group of disaffected young Muslims who had fallen out with Mozambique's Islamic establishment.
Some were taken from the Mozambican military after ambushes; but regional security experts say the group likely smuggled weapons in by sea or across the border from Tanzania.
Shabaab launched their first major attack on an urban center in August 2020, driving Mozambican special forces out of Mocimboa da Praia and then ambushing troop reinforcements sent to the town.
Raymakers told CNN that the assault on Palma was a "major setback for the government, especially after the Total announcement, and seriously brings into question their ability to secure LNG projects vital for the country's long-term financial prosperity. "
But Raymakers says the government in Maputo needs to acknowledge that the insurgency has local roots -- and launch a broader dialogue about Cabo Delgado's natural wealth as well as the historic marginalization of the region.
The raid on Palma has shown that the momentum is very much with the insurgents -- and so long as they continue to inflict defeats on government forces, ISIS is likely to promote and applaud the group.