Rebels besiege town in northern Mozambique
March 29, 2021 - Fighting between Islamist rebels and army troops at the besieged town of Palma has killed dozens of civilians. Since 2017, insurgents have killed 2,600 people while more than 670,000 have fled their homes.
Discoveries of the world’s largest ruby deposits and a vast natural gas field in the Cabo Delgado region raised hopes of jobs and a better life for many local people. Despite the investment of $20 billion in the Total-Exxon Mobil gas project, extreme poverty remains.
Now desperation in Cabo Delgado has fuelled an Islamist insurgency that has complicated efforts to develop the gas field.
Since 2014, impoverished young people in Cabo Delgado have turned to radical Islam imported from Tanzania and Somalia. A religious movement, Ansar al-Sunna, first appeared in 2015. The group -- which is known locally as al-Shabab -- became violent in October 2017, attacking the town and port of Mocimboa da Praia.
Ansar al-Sunna has since claimed responsibility for many of the attacks carried out in Mozambique, including brutal beheadings and massacres.
Now the government in Maputo has appealed to the United States for help. On March 10, Washington designated al-Shabab as a “foreign terrorist organisation,” describing it as an Islamic State-affiliate.
“U.S. special operations forces will support Mozambique’s efforts to prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism,” the U.S. embassy in Mozambique said on March 15.
Portugal -- the former colonial power in Mozambique -- will also send 60 personnel to train the military.