Since its first attack in 2017, the insurgency Ahlu Sunna Wa Jama (ASWJ), has greatly destabilized northern Mozambique. While ASWJ initially targeted security forces, today the insurgency frequently targets civilians, burns down homes, and destroys crops. The group has briefly taken over towns and currently holds Mocimboa da Praia. While, ASWJ aligned with the Islamic State (IS) in 2019, the extent of their coordination is unclear. When ASWJ captured Mocimboa da Praia in August 2020, IS published an inaccurate timeline of events, appearing largely dependent on think-tanks for information. Due to ASWJ’s secrecy and the government’s suppression of information, details about the group’s origins, funding and specific ideology are uncertain.
Analysts generally view the insurgency as rooted in local grievances, rather than the product of external forces. Local Islamic clerics, interviewed by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), claim the first signs of extremism started around 2014. Local youths, expelled from traditional mosques, started their own mosque with “strange beliefs and practices.” ASWJ was reportedly influenced by the ideas of Aboud Rogo Mohammed, an extremist Kenyan cleric. Mohammed led Al-Hijra, a Kenyan terrorist group affiliated with al-Shabaab (oddly, ASWJ is sometimes referred to by the same name, despite no affiliation).
ASWJ’s exact ideological beliefs still remain unclear, as ASWJ has produced little in the way of propaganda. Interestingly, Assaye Risk’s 2018 report indicates that the insurgents are more concerned with criminal activity than religious ideology. Supporting this, the Jamestown Foundation found the insurgents are at least partially funded through illegal ruby and timber
trafficking. Cabo Delgado is the poorest province in Mozambique and, in recent years, has suffered from multiple crises, including: economic stagnancy; unseasonable and severe cyclones; and cholera and COVID-19 outbreaks. The insurgency often targets young Mwani men with little economic prospects.
Additionally, Cabo Delgado is home to three of the largest liquid natural gas (LNG) projects in Africa. The majority of jobs generated by these projects go to men from Mozambique’s capital, Maputo. The loss is particularly devastating for the Mwani, whose cultural identity and livelihoods are strongly tied to the coastal region. Since independence in 1974, the Mwani have lost substantial economic power to the Maconde (President Nyusi’s ethnic group). Divisive colonial policies favored the Mwani, and during the war for independence, many Mwani fought with Portugal. The war, which was primarily fought in Cabo Delgado, is still highly significant to tensions today. Notably, ASWJ sometimes refers to itself as Swahili Sunna, which experts view as an allusion to the Mwani’s history in the region.
Despite the complex, interrelated challenges facing Cabo Delgado, the Nyusi government has largely focused on force, often to the detriment of human rights. Watchdog groups, such as Amnesty International, have released alarming allegations about government forces’ abuse of human rights, including torture and extrajudicial killings. Abuse allegations often go
uninvestigated, and perpetrators have little reason to believe they will be held accountable.
Further, the government has worked to limit information about the conflict. During a press conference in February 2019, Governor Julio Parruque of Cabo Delgado announced that he would “no longer tolerate” journalists covering topics such as insurgent attacks, corruption, and drug trafficking. Journalists have been denied access to Cabo Delgado. Those covering the conflict have often been arbitrarily arrested. Some, like investigative journalist Ibraimo Mbaruco, have “gone missing” while seemingly in police custody.
Until recently, the government denied the insurgency’s existence, arguably enabling it to grow. President Nyusi now acknowledges ASWJ’s existence, but he solely blames “external elites” for the conflict, dismissing local grievances. However, to effectively combat ASWJ, the government must address the complex humanitarian issues facing Cabo Delgado
Classification: Localized Insurgency
Where: Cabo Delgado, Northern Mozambique
When: October 2017-Present
Deaths: 1,854 (ACLED)
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): 368,000 (Relief Web September 2020)
- The number of recorded IDPs has doubled since March, and is now over 10% of Cabo Delgado’s population.
People in need of Humanitarian Aid: 712,000 (OCHA July 2020)
Population below the poverty line: 44.2% nationwide, 50% in Cabo Delgado (UNDP 2015).
*Available data does not yet reflect the impact of escalating conflict in the region.
Key Economic Sectors: Agriculture, Mining, Fishing, Oil and Natural Gas
- 88% of Cabo Delgado residents work in agriculture, fishing, or forestry (UNDP 2015)
- Extractive industries (i.e. mining, oil and natural gas) are fast-growing, but generate few jobs (often with hazardous working conditions.
Literacy rate: 47% nationwide (World Bank 2018), 33% in Cabo Delgado (USAID 2020)
Environmental issues: Mozambique is extremely vulnerable to climate change. The country regularly faces increasingly severe droughts, cyclones, and floods. As many as 25% of the population faces a high mortality risk from environmental disasters (UNDP).
When the attacks began, the Mozambican government and police were adamant that there is no Islamic insurgency in Northern province of Cabo Delgado. However, as more attacks happened, the government could not ignore the clear signs that something is brewing up north. The realisation led to President Filipe Nyusi to ask the international community through the UN General Assembly to assist in fighting the menace.
The Mozambican police and army have arrested hundreds of suspected Ansar al-Sunna militants, some of whom were foreign nationals, mostly from Tanzania.
Amnesty International has accused the Mozambican government of suppressing journalists in covering the upsurge of machete attacks by armed groups thought to be linked to Ansar al-Sunna. The arrest of Amade Abubacar is an example that Amnesty International uses as an example of restriction of media freedom.
Who are they: Ansar al-Sunna wa-Jama, in short, Ansar al-Sunna, is an Islamist insurgent group solidifying its roots in northern Mozambique. Though specifics about its history is still unclear, some claim that the group was formed by followers of the radical Kenyan Cleric Aboud Rogo, who was killed in 2012. Rogo was accused of supporting al-Shabaab, both financially and sending fighters to Somalia to support their cause. The second theory of the origins of Ansar al-Sunna is an off-shoot of the Islamic Council of Mozambique (ICM), which traces its roots to the early 2000s. ICM created a chapter in Cabo Delgado known as Ansaru Sunna who built mosques and performed other social goods in the area. Another theory about Ansar al-Sunna’s origin is that street traders, united by economic frustration and radical Islam, came together in 2015.
Beliefs: Like other extremist groups, Ansar al-Sunna believes that Muslims in Mozambique have strayed from how Islam is supposed to be practised, also calling for the strict interpretation and practice of the Sharia law. It is still unclear whether the growing insurgency is leaning towards supporting ISIS or al-Qaeda. Unlike Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab, Ansar al Sunna does not have a clear objective or manifesto.
Structure: The structure of Ansar al-Sunna is not as organised as other organisations, possibly since it is still at its infancy stages. Current knowledge is that the group operates as mostly autonomous cells that do not necessarily coordinate their attacks. In August 2018, the Mozambique police identified six men who are possible leaders of the extremist groups. They are Adual Faizal, Abdul Raim, Abdul Remane, Ibn Omar, “Salimo”, and Nuno Remane. Their official capacity within the organisation is not apparent.
Target: Their primary targets are the military, police and the population at large. According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), there have been 49 attacks attributed to Ansar al-Sunna, and about 200 people are believed to have killed, half of whom were civilians.
Fighters: It is believed that the majority of the fighters are of Mozambican origin. The estimate is that there are at least 200 fighters. Tanzanian, Kenyan and Somali nationals can also be found in the ranks of Ansar al-Sunna, though it is unclear the exact number within the ranks.
Financing: Some analysts have speculated that the group funds itself through the sale of contraband and illicit drugs such as heroin, as well as the ivory trade, according to a study conducted by Muslim cleric Sheikh Saide Habibe and Researchers Joao Pereira and Salvador Forquilha. The sale of the illicit drugs and contraband is not unique to them but rather a rising tread out of Cabo Delgado province which Ansar al Sunna and other criminals are benefiting.
Note: Locals in Cabo Delgado province call the insurgents al-Shabaab. This term should not be misinterpreted to mean that the group is a faction or an affiliate of the Somali insurgent group, al-Shabaab, that operates in Eastern and the Horn of Africa.
In June 2019, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), through their social media platforms, claimed that their fighters in Mozambique have conducted in the southern African country. The group claimed that the attack killed at least 16 people and the surviving militants captured military equipment. They also claimed that their fighters stormed into a Christian village in northern Mozambique, burning houses and forcing residents to flee their homes.
Much is still unknown about ISIS in Mozambique. Sometimes Ansar al-Sunna is discussed synonymously with ISIS. The link between the two groups or whether Ansar al-Sunna officially pledged their allegiance to ISIS making them an affiliate of the group still being investigated.
Mozambique-Russia relations stems from the anti-colonial movement in the 1960s. But from 2017, the two countries have been increasing their military alliance, signing several military pacts. Henceforth, Russia has been supplying arms and military equipment, as well as training Mozambican troops. With a Russian foothold in the country, Kremlin-linked companies have benefited economically from the Mozambique-Russia relationship. In August 2019, PJSC Rosneft Oil Company, a Russian company, signed an MOU with the government to allow the oil giant to develop offshore natural gas fields in Mozambique. Most of the efforts will be concentrated in the oil-rich Cabo Delgado Province. The deal came around the same time as when the Kremlin cancelled almost all Mozambican debt.
With their economic interest secured, unsurprisingly, reports emerged that Russian soldiers were operating in Mozambique. The soldiers are linked to the Kremlin-affiliated military contractors, the Wagner Group. According to senior director of the Penn Biden Centre for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, Michael Carpenter, “…Wagner Group is almost like an official arm of state policy in Russia. I mean, obviously it’s not officially recognised, and yet its services can be a proxy for the Kremlin.” On 2 October 2019, initial reports stated that a contingent of at least 200 soldiers belonging to the Wanger group landed in Mozambique. Kremlin Spokesperson immediately issues denying reports, reiterating “there are no Russian soldiers in Mozambique.” Three days following the report and Kremlin’s denial statement, local and Russian media reported that 2 Wagner Group soldiers were killed in an ambush. Almost three weeks later, another 5 Wanger Group soldiers were killed in an ambush. The Kremlin has not commented on either incident. The attacks perpetrated by suspected Ansar al-Sunna militants.
40 unidentified militants raid 3 police stations in Mocimboa da Praia, killing 17 people, including 2 police officers and a community elder. The militants managed to steal firearms and ammunition. Through police investigations, 14 of the 30 perpetrators were later captured. The survivors say that the militants said that they reject state health and education products, and do not pay taxes. In addition to capturing the 17 original perpetrators, the Mozambique police detained 52 suspected Ansar al-Sunna militants connected to the raid at police stations on 20 October 2017.
Fleeing residents state that Ansar al-Sunna militants and government forces are engaged in battle in Maluku village, 30 km outside Mocimboa da Praia. The skirmishes continue to Columbe village
Mozambique police announce the arrest of 100 Ansar al-Sunna suspected militants. The police say that the arrested individuals are connected to the October 5th raids. They added that some of the arrested include foreign nationals. Notably, the Nyusi government continuously characterizes the conflict as driven by foreign nationals, rather than locak grievances in the impoverished region.
Mozambican government announces the closure of three mosques in Cabo Delgado. The government says that the three mosques are liked to Islamic fundamentalism.
Suspected Ansar al-Sunna militants attack Mitumbate and Maculo villages, brutally killing two and injuring two others. According to the villagers, the bodies of the two killed victims were decapitated and then set on fire. Additionally, the militants destroyed at least 27 homes and a church.
Mocimboa da Praia district government names, Nuro Adremane, and Jafar Alawi, two Mozambican nationals as suspected organisers of the raids on police stations in October. The local government says that the two individuals have outside exposure, studying Islam in Tanzania, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. They also added that there is a possibility that they have received prior military training.
A local independent newspaper, “O Pais”, claims that Mozambican paratroopers and marines conduct operations in Mitumbate, possible Ansar al-Sunna stronghold. They came through the sea and by air. The newspaper alleges that at least 50 people killed, including women and children. It is unclear whether many of the dead were suspected militants.
An unspecified number of suspected Ansar al-Sunna militants attack a market and government administrative building in Olumbi town, Palma district. The attack resulted in the death of 5 people
A video posted on social media encourages people to join the fight for Islamic values and establish Islamic law as the law of the land. In the video, 6 unidentified men speak to the audience. The video is in both Portuguese and Arabic.
Unidentified men allegedly attack Chitolo village, according to Radio Mocambique. They claim that the raid resulted in the burning of 50 homes and the death of unspecified villagers
Unidentified men attack Diaca and Velha villages in Nangade district and Mangwaza village in Palma district. Reports indicate at least four houses were burnt, one person was killed and another three were abducted. The Mozambican security forces conducted operations to capture culprits. The security forces say they arrested 30 suspected militants
At least 90 ISIS militants have infiltrated northern Mozambique, Lowvelder reports, citing unnamed intelligence sources. The ISIS fighters reportedly came from Tanzania. The Mozambican government categorically denies the allegations. The spokesperson for the Mozambican police added that the country is protected by well-armed Frontier Guards. The allegation follows a similar report from the African Union stating that ISIS forces are present Mozambique.
According to a local newspaper, Mediafax, a policeman has been fired over allegations of assisting insurgents in northern Mozambique. The article cites two studies conducted by Institute of Economic and Social Studies and Civil Society Support Mechanisms which detail the history of Ansar al-Sunna in Mozambique, including how their fighters are trained. The studies say former policemen and frontier guards are still providing training to militants, according to the two studies.
Ten people, including children, are reportedly beheaded in Palma districts of Cabo Delgado province. One of the deceased is believed to be the leader of Monjane village. One of the residents said that the leader was targeted because he provides information to the police about the whereabouts of Ansar al-Sunna. Locals claim that Ansar al-Sunna, or al-Shabaab in their terms, is responsible for the killings.
US embassy warns its citizens about a possible attack in Cabo Delgado. This comes just 12 days after ten people, including children, were beheaded by suspected Ansar al-Sunna militants and five days before five people were decapitated in Macomia district. Two days before the warning, in Macomia district, six men armed with machetes and guns attacked Naunde village killing at least seven people and injuring four others.
Similar to incidents reported over the past three weeks, armed men with machetes and firearms have attacked a village, this time in Nangade district. Four people have been confirmed dead. Reports also indicate several homes were burnt.
On 12th, an unspecified number of armed men attack a village in Macomia district. One villager is decapitated, several animals are killed, and houses are burnt down.
Suspected Ansar al-Sunna militants kill 12 and injure another 15 people in Paqueue village] in Cabo Delgado province. Ten of the twelve were shot dead while the other two were burnt to death. It is being reported at one of the dead bodies was also decapitated postmortem
Mustafa Suale Machinga, suspected Ansar al-Sunna commander, arrested after residents captured him in Litingina village in Nangade district in Cabo Delgado province. The 30-year-old previously served in the Mozambican armed forces.
Suspected Ansar al-Sunna militants beheaded four people, including the head of the village, in Manila village in Mocimboa da Praia district. Five other people were seriously injured while six houses were burnt down.
A days later, four insurgents were captured in Palma. It is unclear whether the captured militants are the same ones as those who attacked a peasant couple in another neighbourhood in Palma a day prior. 1000 people have fled the area due to the increased terror threat.
Abdul Rahmin Faizal, a suspected insurgent from Uganda, was captured in Mozambique. Mozambican police say that Faizal is a senior figure within the growing insurgency movement in the northern part of the country. Faizal was arrested alongside three other Ugandan nationals. In a statement, the police commander in the region said that “these people are extremely dangerous. Their mission was to receive those recruited in Memba and other coastal districts and provide materials for attacks against Cabo Delgado communities. They buy knives, machetes and axes, which the criminals use to hack innocent Mozambicans to pieces. They were giving instructions on how to use these weapons.” The arrest comes just as another suspected Ansar al-Sunna militants attacked a village in Cabo Delgado district, killing and decapitating 7 men and kidnapping four women.
In March, according to Amnesty International, journalist Amade Abubacar, who was arrested 5 January 2019, is in critical condition indention. Amnesty International called for claims that Abubacar is ‘being ill-treated and denied medical treatment” to be “investigated thoroughly and transparently.” Amnesty International called upon the government to charge Amade with a “recognizable criminal offence or release him immediately and unconditionally.”
Abubacar was arrested by police while documenting deadly attacks by armed groups in Cabo Delgado province. He is being held at the Mieze Correctional Centre in Pemba district, Cabo Delgado province.
The cyclones marked the first time two cyclones hit Mozambique in the same season. Conditions were worsened by insurgents’ previous destruction of infrastructure and disruption of economic activity.
Following a historically severe cyclones, Mozambique experienced a cholera outbreak. By August 2019, there were 6,768 confirmed cases of cholera, 1,200 of which were in Cabo Delgado province. Unfortunately, 200,000 people were resettled over 5 km away from the nearest healthcare facility. Moreover, in affected provinces, 14% of healthcare facilities were damaged by the cyclones.
ISIS claims that their militants have successfully attacked the Mozambican army in Mitopy, Mocimboa da Praia district. The attack, they claim, killed at least 16 people and wounded 12 others. The group also claimed that they managed to capture weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades from the military. The police refuted ISIS’ claims. Researchers and analysts are skeptical over ISIS’ claims.
On 10 and 27 October, armed insurgents in Cabo Delgado province killed 7 mercenaries working for Wagner, the Kremlin-linked private military contractor. In the first incident, 2 soldiers were shot dead following an ambush in Macomia district. 17 days later, a second ambush resulted in the deaths of 5 soldiers in Muidumbe district. Reports say that four of the five were shot and then beheaded while the fifth died later in the hospital.
UN refugee agency, UNHCR, reported that thousands of people in Cabo Delgado province are fleeing a recent escalation of violence and brutal attack by armed groups such as the locally known group, al-Shabaab. UNHCR spokesperson, Andrej Mahecic, says the violence has spread across nine of the 16 districts. The spokesperson did not place the blame on any specific group operating in the region.
As of March 2020, a year after cyclones Idai and Kenneth, 2.5 million are in need of humanitarian aid; 160,000 are displaced, and 715,378 hectares of crops have been destroyed. An estimated 1.6 million do not have enough food. Conflict in northern Mozambique has worsened the situation, as insurgents destroy infrastructure and families stop tending to crops due to fear of terrorist attacks.
Local reports indicate that insurgents, locally known as Al-Shabaab, sieze control of Mocimboa de Praia. According to the police, militants staged an overnight attack on the town taking over a military base and raising their flag. Local media reports that residents of the town are being locked in the mosques.
This is the first time the jihadists have successfully attacked a major town. Most of their attacks have been on village and farms.
The police in Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique say that at least 52 villagers of Xitaxi village were massacred by the jihadist group locally known as al-Shabaab. Villagers say that the people killed refused to join the group. Though the police place the blame on the group, they have not claimed the attack.
After two and half years, Mozambican jihadist group locally known as al-Shabaab have finally declared their intention of creating a caliphate in Northern part of the country. In a video circulating on social media, a member of the group whose identity or rank is unknown, told residents, “We want everyone here to apply Islamic law. We don’t want a government from unbelievers. We want a government from Allah.” The recent revelations come after the group seised government buildings, robbed banks, blocked roads and hoisted their black and white flag over towns and villages of Cabo Delgado province
The Islamic State claims to have shot down a Gazelle helicopter in Mozambique on either 8 or 10 April. The video shows masked, armed men with an Islamist flag surrounding the wreckage of the burnt-out helicopter. Apparently, the plane belonged to Dyck Advisory Group. Local reports say that though the Islamists shot at the plane, the crew of the plane destroyed the helicopter themselves to stop the enemy from taking parts of the plane
ACLED, a research institute in the UK, says that the group locally known as Al-Shabaab, but formally known as Ahlu Sunnah WA-Jamo, have been undeterred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Between 1 January and 25 July, the group has conducted 101 attacks in Cabo Delgado province. This means that they have increased their attacks by 300% compared to the same time frame the previous year. Additionally, there are 285 total reported fatalities, 200 of whom are presumed to be civilians, as a result of the group in the same time period
The Mozambican government announced that an operation in northern Cabo Delgado led to the death of at least 50 suspected jihadists who are accused of attacks in the area.
The operation comes after the Interior Minister announced that the extremist had conducted 20 attacks on 11 villages in Cabo Delgado villages between 3 and 12 May. During those attacks, the militants abducted citizens, destroyed newly built hospitals and cut off telecommunication lines.
With the increased brazen nature of the jihadist movement in Northern Mozambique, President Filipe Nyusi appealed to neighbouring countries with help to fight terrorism in a televised speech. While in Zimbabwe, he said, terrorism, you can’t fight alone. This is the experience which we have. We need to share forces, not only in the region but probably for Africa.”
Few days following his speech in Zimbabwe, Mozambique engaged with South Africa for help. The Minister of International Relations of South Africa, Naledi Pandor, noted that both countries were in talks, adding that the Southern African country is contemplating how led support to Mozambique with its own resources.
In the early hours of the day, the jihadist group known as al-Shabaab attacked a village in Mocamia. Local reports indicate the insurgents set fire to homes, shops, schools, religious and government buildings. Many of the villagers fled into the bushes and neighbouring village
The shooting occurred six days after villagers arrived in Illala, fleeing violence in Macomia. The attackers reportedly asked who had escaped from Macomia before shooting them. The shooting went unreported for a month due to the challenges of reporting on Cabo Delgado, where the government has cracked down on media coverage of the insurgency. Journalists reporting on the conflict in northern Mozambique are often arrested arbitrarily and prevented from entering Cabo Delgado province.
MSF suspended its work in Macomia and Mocimboa da Praia, a week after an attack by insurgents left the health center “severely damaged” and forced staff to hide “in the bush for two day.” At the same time, the region faces a deepening cholera outbreak as well as the highest Covid-19 infection rate in the country.
On the night of June 25th, police raided Nanduadua (a neighborhood outside Mocimboa da Praia), arresting men suspected of involvement with the insurgency. When no man was present, Zitamar reports, women were “aggressively questioned” and sometimes abused. On 26 June, per ACLED, 26 corpses were found and identified as civilians brought in by the police the night before. That same day, 12 previously arrested civilians were released, some of whom were injured.
Mozambican insurgents, commonly known by the locals as al-Shabaab, ambushed a local sub-contractor, Fenix construction, working on Totals Mozambique LGN project. In the attack, eight contractors were killed, 3 are missing while 3 other managed to escape with minor injuries. The survivors noted that 5 insurgents, who were wearing uniforms similar to those of Mozambique’s Defence and Security Forces. The local security responded to the attack and were met with hefty firepower.
Insurgents attacked Mocimboa da Praia, a major port in Cabo Delgado province, killing 40 civilians and kidnapping at least 28 children. The port is logistically significant for humanitarian relief in the region. Many have fled north, however. A source told ACLED that by 6 July, the port was “a ghost town.”
Mbaruco went missing in April, seemingly abducted by Mozambican security forces in Palma, a small town in Cabo Delgado province hard-hit by the regional conflict. Notably, the Mozambican government has recently clamped down on press freedom, in attempt to control information about the insurgency.
At least nine civilians were killed in a new attack by the insurgents in Cabo Delgado and Mocimboa da Praia provinces in northern Mozambique. Locals say that militants attacked 2 villages – in one of the attacks, eight people were beheaded while another one person as killed.
As of 23 July, the Mozambican health ministry recorded 1,288 cases and 18 deaths from cholera. Actual numbers are likely much higher. Due to difficulty obtaining data from conflict zones, hard hit areas such as Mocimboa da Praia often go weeks without updates. Zitamar reports that displaced persons are often accused of bringing the disease with them, making them targets of violence.
Insurgents killed, looted, and burned down homes in Litandauca, killing two civilians. A local militia composed of veterans ambushed the insurgents, killing 12 of them. The militia was reportedly armed by the government. This is the first time the government has distributed weapons to civilians since 2018.
From 5-9 August, security forces clashed with insurgents. The insurgency gradually gained control over Awasse (a village, notably, located on route to Mocimboa da Praia) and parts of Mocimboa da Praia. Fighting continued through the 10th, when the government forces began their withdrawal from the port.
Mocimboa da Praia’s port is highly important to humanitarian aid logistically. Notably, the port is also central to a 23 billion dollar natural-gas project with the French company Total. An estimated 50 soldiers and 70 insurgents were killed in the fighting, though it is difficult to obtain reliable data from the region.
The ADIN’s mission is to offer humanitarian aid and economic opportunity to those affected conflict and natural disasters in the provinces of Cabo Delgado, Nissan, and Nampula (all in Northern Mozambique). Unfortunately, the agency has major financial issues, with only 5% of its promised funding available.
According to ACLED, witnesses saw 19 military vehicles transporting troops from Nangade district to Palma and Mocimboa da Praia district. State forces are reportedly in the western part of Mocimboa da Praia district, and Palma (north of Mocimboa da Praia).
The Sixth Commission of the Assembly of the Republic is “concerned” at the number of mosques already constructed in the area (over 500 for 200,000 residents). One member of the Commission, Isaura Júlio, explicitly linked ASWJ to the provinces’ mosques: “We know very well that Cabo Delgado is experiencing terrorism…the process started precisely with the construction of mosques.” Zitamar News argued such rhetoric from government leadership is feeding distrust among religious groups.
200 Mozambican forces were ambushed in Awasse, a village 30 km outside of Mocimboa da Praia. The number of fatalities was not reported, though Carta de Moçambique reports there were “casualties on all sides.”
Insurgents reportedly burned down multiple homes and stole several fishing vessels, as well as goats and food.
Insurgents also attacked Oluma, near Macomia District, per Carta de Mozambique. While specifics are sparse, a resident told Carta de Mozambique that “villages were burning.” According to ACLED, most residents had left prior to the attack.
Amnesty International verified footage showing Mozambican security forces torturing and beheading prisoners. The organization called for an independent investigation. The Mozambican government tried to argue the soldiers in the video were actually ASWJ militants impersonating Mozambican soldiers. However, Amnesty International’s report points out that the soldiers in the video speak Portuguese and Shangaan, a language from southern Mozambique. As ASWJ originated and is based in northern Mozambique, the government’s explanation is unlikely.
Insurgents attacked two vehicles headed into Palma, per Carta de Moçambique. The road, which runs along the Tanzanian border, was previously considered the last safe route into Palma. The number of casualties is unclear, though at least two survivors are being treated at the nearby Nangade health center. Security forces reportedly responded quickly.
A video was released on social media showing a naked woman shot in the road by men appearing to be Mozambique Armed Defense Force Officers. The woman was shot 36 times as officers in the video referred to her as “Al Shabaab.” Amnesty International believes the shooting occurred outside Awasse on September 7th, during the military’s failed attempt to retake Mocimboa da Praia. Defense Minister Jaime Neto dismissed the video as fake, but Amnesty International says the video is “consistent” with previous findings of “appalling human rights abuses” committed by Mozambican soldiers.
According to ACLED, the civilians were tending to their fields when the insurgents attacked and beheaded them. The attack occurred in Novo Cabo Delgado, Macomia district. Since fighting escalated in late 2019, there have been multiple reports of farmers forced to stop working their lands due to fear of similar attacks.
The insurgents reportedly gathered civilians in the town and accused them of looting the insurgents’ base. They subsequently beat “several” civilians, killing two of them. After government forces captured an insurgent base in May, Quissanga district had grown significantly safer. This is the first attack in the district since 1 July.
Mozambique formally requested support for training, logistics, medical equipment, and humanitarian aid from the EU. A week before, the EU passed a resolution that condemned government forces’ human rights abuses in Cabo Delgado.
While details are not clear, the insurgents were reportedly disguised as Mozambican security forces, per ACLED. The insurgents gathered civilians and accused them of looting an abandoned base, just as they did days prior in Cagembe. They proceeded to take the civilians’ cellphones and money, before abducting 200 of them (mainly women, with “a number of children”). The insurgents subsequently burned down nearly every home in the town. It is still uncertain how many civilians were killed, though public reports claim at least 8 died.
The insurgents killed one EdM employee as he was working on an electricity line in Awasse, Mocimboa da Praia district. The insurgents also set an EdM vehicle on fire, as other employees fled.
Meanwhile, in Naliendele village (outside of Palma) insurgents clashed with government forces. The number of casualties is not yet clear. Per ACLED, one report indicates five Mozambican soldiers were killed, while another claims two soldiers were killed and three injured.
Insurgents killed 3 civilians traveling on the Palma-Nangade road, according to Mundo ao Minuto. Earlier that day, on the same road, the insurgents reportedly set another vehicle on fire. Civilians had only just started using the route again after similar attacks occurred earlier in September. The road is the last remaining route out of Palma.
Mozambican soldiers, along with support from Dyck Advisory Group, fought with insurgents in the mangroves between Quissanga and Tandanhague. The insurgents reportedly shot at four helicopters and a plane, per ACLED.
As conflict intensifies in Cabo Delgado there are now 368,000 internally displaced persons. The conflict has also forced 600 health care workers to flee and 25 health care facilities to close, according to Relief Web. Worsening matters, the region is currently suffering outbreaks of Cholera and acute watery diarrhea.
Over three days, insurgents attacked Mucojo Side (the headquarters of the administrative posts), and Crimize, Manica, Messano, Pangane, Rueia, Naunde, and Namibia 2, per Zitamar News. In Mucojo, insurgents clashed with government security and defense forces (FDS) after burning down homes and public infrastructure. The FDS fled after realizing the insurgents outnumbered them.
The insurgents were seemingly trying to clear out local populations; in Messano they reportedly paid older civilians 9,000 meticais (or $125) to permanently leave town. In Pangane, some civilians fled via two boats, both of which were heavily overloaded, leading one of them to capsize. Over 1,000 people fleeing the attacks came to Macomia town, where many of them are in need of basic necessities such as food and bedding.
Insurgents set buildings on fire in the villages of Quirimize and Naunde villages, both of which are in eastern Macomia district, according to ACLED.
Insurgents tried to raid Magaia, Muidumbe district, but an armed local militia drove the insurgents off. It is unclear if there were any casualties. Per Pinnacle News, the militia prevented a similar attack on 30 September, in which one insurgent died. The militia was reportedly armed by the government
The attack occurred in the villages of Nambo and Pangane, resulting in the death of 8 civilians and 2 soldiers. The insurgents set fire to homes and vehicles (including two FDS cars). Carta de Moçambique reports that 62 people were abducted, including members of Nambo’s village administrative structure.
Insurgents raided Iba, Meluco district; Olumbua, Macomia district; and Nanhoma, Quissanga district for supplies, though no arson attacks or casualties occurred. Cabo Delgado is entering its lean season, and per ACLED, raids have been increasing as resources such as food become more scarce.
That same day, insurgents attacked Koko, Macomia district, burning multiple homes and kidnapping one civilian. The following day, the insurgents returned but were warded off by government forces, with no reported casualties.
There were no reported casualties from the two attacks, but civilians were forced to flee their homes to Macomia town.
The same day, insurgents travelled by two motor boats to Ilha Matemo. Once there, ACLED reports that the insurgents killed one man for “having a non-Islamic haircut” and kidnapped “several” people (predominately youths). When the insurgents tried to leave on local boats, the Dyck Advisory Group (DAG) helicopters attacked, killing an unknown number of insurgents and civilian hostages. The government later claimed that 34 insurgents were killed and 69 injured, but did not say how many civilian hostages were killed or injured.
7,400 IDPs arrived in Pemba on 127 boats. The IDPs were primarily women and children from Quissanga, Macomia, and Ibo districts. In an Interview, Luis Fernando Lisboa, the Bishop of Pemba, estimated that 80,000 displaced people now live the provincial capital, with more arriving every day.
Insurgents attacked the Tanzanian border post of Kilambo, nearby the town of Kitaya (which the insurgents attacked on 14 October). No casualties were reported.
Government forces reportedly attacked an insurgent base in Mocimboa da Praia, the vital port city that insurgents have held since mid-August 2020. The number of casualties is unclear however, with officials giving contradictory reports. Interior Minister Amade Miquidade claimed that 22 insurgents were killed in the attack. Conversely, the Police Chief Bernardino Rafael claimed the attack was much more impactive, with government forces killing 108 insurgents and destroying 3 tons of food, 15 trucks, and 20 motorcycles.
The Police of the Republic of Mozambique are reportedly banning reporters from photographing IDPs arrival at Pemba’s Paquitequete beach, per Carta de Moçambique. Recently, thousands of people fleeing violence have arrived in Pemba via boat. According to the city’s mayor roughly 95,000 IDPs now live in Pemba. While many have found housing through personal connections or aid agencies, as of 26 October, at least 200 IDPs were “stranded” on Paquitequete beach, according to ACLED.
Notably, the government has tried to limit the flow of information on the conflict in Cabo Delgado, with government forces often harassing reporters (and, in some cases, abducting them).
In recent months, Palma has grown increasingly cut off from the rest of the province due to attacks on routes into the town. On 27 October, DAG launched a counter-offensive to regain control over the road from Mueda into Palma. However, on 31 October, insurgents attacked Pundanhar, a town on the road into Palma which has been subject to frequent-attack recently.
Insurgents claim they attacked three villages in the Mtwara region of Tanzania. Two of the villages are Michenjele and Mihambwe, with Nanyamba believed to be the third (per ACLED). Several buildings were burned down and one police station was looted.
The boat was carrying 74 IDPs to Pemba when it capsized near Ihla Makalowe, per Zitamar. The captain reportedly saw a fire on Ihla Makalowe and feared that there an insurgent attack was occurring. He then tried to change course to avoid the island and hit rocks. 54 people drowned in the accident, including 11 children. When the survivors made it to shore, they found people hiding from an insurgent attack on another part of the island. The survivors fled the attack on Ilha Makalowe by taking another boat to Ilha Matemo.
While this incident was unusually deadly, numerous boats have capsized while carrying IDPs fleeing violence, as IDPs in Cabo Delgado are often forced to leave on crowded ships.
Rockets were fired across the Rovuma River that demarcates the border between Tanzania and Mozambique, injuring at least 9 civilians in Mandimba village and 3 civilians in Pundanhar, according to Zitamar.
The Mozambican government has not addressed the incident, though relations between the two countries have been tense due to the insurgency in Cabo Delgado.
While DAG attacked the insurgents by air on 1 November, the insurgents ambushed government forces outside of Pundanhar. The number of casualties is currently unknown. Pundanhar, which is on the way to Palma, has frequently been attacked in recent months as the insurgents try to cut off Palma from the rest of the province.
Insurgents attacked Pundhanar again, burning several homes down and kidnapping 5 civilians.
Insurgents had been occupying Muatide, Muidumbe district when they attacked young men taking part in an initiation ritual. Fifteen boys and five adults from 24 de Marco village were decapitated. Their bodies were brought to a soccer field in Muatide.
During the occupation, an additional 24 youths and 6 adults were decapitated.
Northern districts of Cabo Delgado have largely been without power since the insurgents took over Mocimboa de Praia in August 2020. The power outage is due to the sabotage of Awasse Substation in Mocimboa da Praia district. Among the villages affected are: Mocimboa da Praia, Palma, Nangade and Muede. Electricidade de Moçambique has repeatedly tried to fix the issue, but has not been able to access the substation due to insurgent attacks.
On 4 November, insurgents raided Nampanha. While no one was killed, multiple homes were destroyed and looted for supplies.
Insurgents attacked Nanjaba, outside of Macomia town. According to ACLED, “nearly the entire village” was burned down in the attack. Six women were kidnapped while other civilians were reportedly decapitated.
The next morning, the insurgents attacked Napala, where they set homes on fire. Three civilians were killed in the attack.
UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet called for urgent measures protecting civilians in Cabo Delgado, where thousands are believed to be trapped by conflict and “hiding in the bush for days.” An estimated 14,300 displaced people fled to Pemba in the last month, with 355,000 people in total displaced by the conflict (OCHA November 2020).