What you need to know:
- The militants have demonstrated military capability, tact and ability to seize and control large spaces or territories.
- Mozambican security agencies seem overwhelmed by the Islamic State of Central Africa Province (Iscap).
The situation in Mozambique is not just a danger to the Southern African country; it poses a danger down to South Africa, up to Zambia, Zimbabwe and DR Congo and then up to East Africa, especially Tanzania and Kenya.
The militant group Ahlu Sunnah wa-l-Jama’ah (ASWJ) has proven that it can conduct and sustain insurgency unabated. The militants have demonstrated military capability, tact and ability to seize and control large spaces or territories.
Known locally as al-Shabab — though no relation to the Somalia-based al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab — it is now referred to internationally as the Islamic State in Mozambique and is affiliated to the Islamic State (ISIS) - and the Islamic State of Central Africa Province (Iscap).
Mozambican security agencies seem overwhelmed by Iscap. Since October 2017, when ASWJ conducted their first attack on the state — a raid on a police station in Mocimboa da Praia — they have continued to perfect the art of the element of surprise: Hit when and where least expected.
Mozambique is crying out for help. For over a week, Iscap has terrorised and wreaked havoc on the gas area of Palma in northern Mozambique, leaving behind dozens of bodies scattered on the streets, some beheaded, buildings razed, banks raided and an army barracks ransacked.
Maputo seems to have been caught flat-footed. Iscap has conducted one of the deadliest attacks since they started insurgency four years ago.
Iscap is a combination of the Islamic State of DRC and the Islamic State of Mozambique, affiliates of Islamic State (IS). In 2018, they declared their allegiance to IS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
After the collapse of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the IS have been on a mission to create a caliphate in Africa that has seen the rise of several affiliates: Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Islamic State of Central Africa Province (Iscap).
What would be Africa if these groups coordinated, as is showing? What would be East Africa if Iscap worked with Somalia-based ISIS and Al-Shabaab under Al-Karrar Office? What would be Kenya, which has already suffered the brunt of Al-Shabaab if Iscap stretched its tentacles into the country?
Alarmingly, Iscap is gaining ground. Besides attacks on Tanzanian soil in October and November last year, it is been reported that youth in Mombasa are dumping Al-Shabaab (and al-Qaeda) for IS through Iscap. What would stop Iscap from capturing ships off the Tanzanian and Kenyan coast?
There is an urgent need for a unitary security pact on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to counter this caliphate. The successes of these jihadist groups in Africa are a result of disunity among national security forces, zero shared intelligence, zero united approaches — as portrayed by the absence of SADC and AU in Mozambique.
Mr Nganga, criminologist and security expert, is head of strategic services at Armistice Security Consult International. firstname.lastname@example.org.