Massacre in Mozambique: Islamic State tightens its grip

Massacre in Mozambique: Islamic State tightens its grip

 Earlier this month, Islamist militants struck a farming community in northern Mozambique, said Deutsche Welle (Bonn). Although reports were hard to verify, witnesses told local media that, armed with machetes, the militants attacked during an initiation rite for teenage boys, and beheaded some 50 people, including at least 15 teenagers, on a football pitch. The atrocity was just one episode in a brutal conflict unfolding in Cabo Delgado, a remote, resource-rich province in the north of the east African state. The insurgency has left more than 2,000 people dead, said Omardine Omar on Carta de Moçambique (Maputo). Schools and hospitals have been destroyed, and a key port has been seized. It’s a “dismal” turn of events. Too many people have been forced to bear witness to the slaughter of their loved ones by machete-wielding militants; more than half of the dead have been beheaded.

The Islamic State-linked insurgents have grown sharply in number since 2017, said Jean-Philippe Rémy and Madjid Zerrouky in Le Monde (Paris). They have recruited young people to their cause by exploiting high levels of poverty and unemployment in the Muslim-majority province (the country as a whole has a Christian majority). Their task has been made easier by dissatisfaction with the government. The discovery of vast gas fields off the coast in 2010 – thought to be the world’s second largest – was meant to bring economic growth and jobs. But even those who haven’t joined the Islamists say they are yet to benefit. The situation has been made more volatile still by the failure of government forces during combat to distinguish between insurgents and the general population. Now, the region is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, said Jorge Rungo in Jornal Domingo (Maputo). Some 400,000 people have been displaced; many have drowned while fleeing to nearby islands on overcrowded boats.

The insurgency is part of a worrying trend, said Declan Walsh in The New York Times. “As Islamic State’s influence wanes in the Middle East, it is surging in pockets of Africa”, including western, central and now southern corners of the continent. The Islamists in Mozambique are now recruiting from nearby Tanzania and Kenya, said Fredson Guilengue in the Daily Maverick (Johannesburg). The government, meanwhile, has deployed mercenaries from South Africa and Russia. Mozambique risks becoming Africa’s Syria: an international battlefield, drawing foreign powers into the conflict.

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