Mozambique is Experiencing a Surge of Violence as Crisis Worsens in Cabo Delgado Region

There is a worsening Jihadist insurgency in a  province in Northern Mozambique called Cabo Delgado. The insurgency began in 2017, but in recent weeks the fighting has intensified substantially. Over half a million people have been displaced — most over the last few months. And in early January 2021, the French energy company Total announced it was suspending operations on a massive $3.9 billion natural gas project in the region amid concerns about the safety of personnel.

The jihadist group known as Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jammah. It also  referred to locally as al-Shabaab, though it has no known ties to the Somali group with the same name.

The group espouses a puritanical view of Islam and has pledged fidelity to the Islamic State. And like the Islamic State, it is capturing territory and committing atrocities in the process, including several reported mass beheadings.

My guest today, Zenaida Machado is a senior researcher with the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. I caught up with hear from Maputo, the capitol of Mozambique. She explains the history of this insurgency, including how this group has shifted tactics from targeted assassinations to more recently capturing territory, including strategically important cities and corridors. We discuss how the response by the Mozambican security forces have sometimes undermined counter-insurgency efforts and how the fighting is causing a massive humanitarian crisis in Mozambique.

The crisis in Northern Mozambique is not something that is generating many headlines here in the United States, but it is something that the humanitarian community and people around the United Nations are increasingly concerned about and this conversation does an excellent job of explaining exactly what we know about this jihadist insurgency.


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