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Multiple Groups Fuel Cabo Conflict

Map of Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province

Almost four years into a so-called Islamic extremist conflict in northern Mozambique, the region remains fertile ground for a number of insurgent groups according to an Africa analyst.

Several global jihadist organizations are exploiting the discontent in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado region to gain a foothold in Southern Africa, and are arming and training the disaffected Mozambicans.

And, there is close cooperation between several international and multinational terror networks across Africa.

That's the perspective of International Crisis Group Senior Analyst Dino Mahtani, who says there are plenty of potential recruits.

"These are young men who are angry," Mahtani told VOA. "A good proportion of the senior leaders are certainly indoctrinated and are using the cloak of Islamic jihadism to present themselves as sort of millenarian warriors fighting against a corrupt state, but also trying to implement sharia law.”

For more than three years, the militants have attacked villages and towns, sometimes beheading people they accuse of transgressing their version of Islamic doctrine. But Mahtani isn’t convinced that most of the rebels are dedicated to jihad, or ‘holy war.’

“When you look at the motivations of local fighters, often they may desert or want to leave if their payments aren’t coming in," he said. "So, they are partly motivated by illicit finances, recruitment money, coming into their hands.”

He says it’s no coincidence that the insurgency in Mozambique began shortly after authorities in neighboring Tanzania targeted Islamic extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda in 2017.

“It’s through this caucus of young men, Tanzanians but also Kenyans, that ISIS is trying to drill into, co-opt that network and bring it out of al-Qaeda’s camp and into the ISIS camp, really through the dissemination of money.”

Mahtani says Kenya-based ISIS cells have been bankrolling insurgents not only in Mozambique, but also in Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Uganda. He says many East African terrorists flushed from their safe houses by security force operations in their home countries are now based in ISIS training camps in eastern DRC. From there, adds Mahtani, they join jihadists in Mozambique.

The analyst finished stating that says these fluid, but strong, alliances mean that when a particular insurgency is squashed, others are likely to emerge elsewhere.