Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi was noticeably absent from the AU Summit this week as he urgently travelled to Cabo Delgado in the north of his country to address the rapidly deteriorating security situation. File picture: Reuters
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi was noticeably absent from the AU Summit this week as he urgently travelled to Cabo Delgado in the north of his country to address the rapidly deteriorating security situation.

The AU Peace and Security Council also highlighted the urgency this week with commissioner Smail Chergui saying the AU must provide equipment and training to assist the Mozambican government in addressing the militant threat.

Cabo Delgado has been the site of beheadings and kidnappings of villagers, as well as villages being burnt to the ground. The increasing attacks on civilians are by an Islamist extremist group which calls itself al-Shabaab (or “youth” in Arabic). The group is not an offshoot of Somalia’s al-Shabaab, but has links to them.

To date the group has launched about 370 attacks since its first attack on a police station in October 2017. There have been 909 recorded deaths, although this number is predicted to climb exponentially. Human Rights Watch has called on the Southern African Development Community to urgently act against the insurgency that poses a risk to the whole region.

Few understand what is really happening in this impoverished corner of Mozambique, bordering Tanzania. But the combination of Wahhabi and Salafist influence from the Gulf and extremist Sheikhs from Tanzania and Kenya have brought a brand of extremism to northern Mozambique that has been germinating since 2015.