Leaders Of Mozambiquen Islamist Militants Identified
18 December 2020
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Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi

MAPUTO. — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said on Wednesday the government was aware of Islamic radicalisation in the northern province of Cabo Delgado five years before jihadists launched a bloody insurgency there.

More than 2 300 people have died and over 570 000 have fled their homes since a shadowy group, known locally as Al-Shabab, unleashed their campaign in the gas-rich province.

In a state-of-the-nation address to lawmakers, Nyusi revealed the identity of the group’s purported leaders and details about their organisation’s rise.

“The radicalisation was promoted by a citizen of Tanzanian nationality identified as Abdul Shakulo,” he said.

“He urged disobedience to the constitution, banned Muslim children from attending (state) schools and required them to attend madrasas, or Koranic schools,” he said.

“The criminal activities of these groups, who called themselves Islamists, started in 2012. The government of Mozambique already knew (of them) in 2012 and managed to contain their expansion until 2017.”

In 2017, the jihadists attacked three police posts in the city of Mocimboa da Praia, killing two police officers.

Since then, the group carried out more than 500 attacks, according to ACLED, a US-based NGO which documents the violence.

Government forces have failed to contain their advance.

But Nyusi said many of the movement’s leaders have been killed in combat and the government was committed to equipping and training its troops to overcome the insurgency.

“We Mozambicans need to develop our capabilities internally. We will be the ones who will be in the first line of defence of our homeland. The government will do everything to make this process happen,” he said.

Nyusi added that the leadership of the group was “mostly foreign” and named five men who he said had been killed in fighting the security forces.

“Among the terrorists killed in combat, there are citizens of Tanzanian origin, Congolese, Somalis, Ugandans, Kenyans and mostly Mozambicans,” he said.

A number of countries have been offering aid to Mozambique to fight the jihadists, including the former colonial ruler Portugal, the United States, France, Spain and Russia, Nyusi said.

“We are intensifying international cooperation to combat terrorism,” he said, adding that the various proposals were being assessed to ensure a coordinated strategy.