Mozambique: Officials Say Insurgency in Northern Mozambique Is Spreading

 With violence by armed groups spreading beyond Mozambique's northernmost province of Cabo Delgado into neighboring Niassa province, President Filipe Nyusi on Thursday cautioned against panic.

That comment followed the president's assurance, at the opening of a new road Monday in Cabo Delgado's Balama district, that young soldiers in Niassa "are waiting for the terrorists." Nyusi attributed what he called "expanding pockets" of violence to insurgents on the run from a military offensive by Mozambican forces, bolstered by troops from Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community regional bloc.

Insurgents linked to the Islamic State have staged attacks since October 2017 in Cabo Delgado, a coastal province rich in natural gas reserves and host to an estimated $60 billion worth of international investment in gas projects. The violence has left at least 3,100 dead, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), which tracks political violence around much of the world.

Conflict there also has displaced nearly 856,000 people, nearly half of them children, according to UNICEF.

As recently as Wednesday, militants looted five villages in Cabo Delgado's Macomia district, burning several huts and allegedly beheading a man working in a field near Nova Zambézia village, witnesses and other sources told VOA Portuguese. Authorities did not respond to VOA's request for comment.

Attacks in Niassa, the province directly to Cabo Delgado's west, have been reported since at least mid-November, according to ACLED.

For instance, suspected Islamist militants struck November 28 at the village of Naulala-1 in Niassa's northeast Mecula district.

The attackers were armed with four guns "and the rest had machetes and there were some ladies with them," local resident Gabriel Naita told VOA Portuguese, adding that "they started shooting in the air and people fled. ... They looted food and the health post and took medicines."

Residents did not mention any civilian injuries or deaths. VOA sought more details from the Niassa provincial command for the Mozambican Republic Police, but a spokeswoman, Mirza Mecuande, would neither confirm nor deny it occurred.

'The conflict is not over'

Mozambican authorities have been closemouthed "as the insurgency began to launch attacks in Niassa province" last month, according to Sam Ratner, an ACLED senior researcher focused on Mozambique.

"The Mozambican government effectively denied that this was happening," maintaining that its interventions, aided by Rwanda and SADC, "have been successful and that we're nearing the end" of conflict in Cabo Delgado, Ratner said. While the allied forces have made some security gains, he added, "This new development of attacks in Niassa province and expanded attacks in Cabo Delgado seems to suggest that that's not actually true -- that actually the conflict is not over, is perhaps not close to being over."

But in recent days, both Nyusi and Mozambique's top police official acknowledged the insurgency had breached Cabo Delgado's borders -- perhaps months earlier.


Mozambique: Officials Say Insurgency in Northern Mozambique Is Spreading -


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