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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

Mozambique jihadists’ new guerrilla tactics could destabilise entire SADC region

South African businesses have been affected by the war waged by Islamic State-linked insurgents.

The intensity of the guerilla war waged by Islamic State-linked insurgents in the gas-rich Cabo Delgado  has begun to have an adverse impact on South African-owned businesses in Mozambique, with the southward movement sparking fears of regional instability in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), security and military experts warn.

According to Institute for Security Studies senior researcher Willem Els and an analyst with the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, Jasmine Opperman, the escalating strife was being compounded by new military tactics employed by the extremists, who have regrouped to launch effective attacks in smaller cells.

ALSO READ: At least three dead in jihadist-hit northern Mozambique

This, they said, made it difficult for SADC Mission in Mozambique (Samim) forces to completely quell the fast-moving attacks in the vast forests of the mainly rural Cabo Delgado.

Several reported incidents in Cabo Delgado over the past three weeks, have included:

  • An attack on a Christian majority village in the Ancuabe area, where two people were beheaded, a church burnt and dozens of homes destroyed.
  • The discovery of three decapitated bodies of farmers in the fields of Xinavane.
  • The burning of more than 1 500 houses and three classrooms in Ancuabe.
  • The vandalising of transformers, leaving 30 000 people without power.

“This conflict is on our doorstep and bound to affect us,” said Els.

“There are already South African businesses which have been affected, especially in the mining sector. There are massive mines with the world’s biggest deposits supplying such companies as Tesla.

“Already there are rumours that one mine has closed down, meaning it is not only going to affect SA, but the US economy.

READ MORE: SADC heads of state meet to discuss Mozambique mission

“Rwandan soldiers have so far managed to stabilise the two gas rich districts, with the backing of massive forces.

“In the 17 districts in the Cabo Delgado province, Rwandans are doing a good job, but they are not on the ground to cover everything.

“The insurgents are not stupid – they have regrouped after assessing the situation. They have now changed their tactics from moving in big groups to smaller groups … making it difficult for them to be easily detected by peacekeeping forces.

“Just as SADC forces have responded, they have moved to hit another area.”

Opperman said the southward movement in Cabo Delgado was “neither surprising nor shocking”.

Insurgents were “in a classical guerrilla war situation, having divided into smaller groups”.

She said: “What Samim, Rwanda and Mozambican government forces are doing is expanding the operational area.

ALSO READ: South Africans may be among Moz insurgents

“Insurgents are finding themselves in unfamiliar territory, which raises questions about the sustainability of a push down south campaign. But they are still instilling fear through attacks.

“These attacks remain confined to small cells and targeting isolated communities with an effective propaganda machinery of the Islamic State.

“Whether they will succeed in their southward campaign or not, they should not be taken for granted.” Samim was faced with “a problem of capability”.

“They seem to be preparing for a bush-like counter insurgency, which will be more ideal. But without foot soldiers able to execute the fight, who have to be equipped, there will be difficulties.”

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