ISIS makes first claim of Mozambique presence

Analysts have poured cold water on the strength of any ISIS connection to the south-east African country

(FILES) This file photo taken on May 1, 2019 shows an aerial view of the damaged Ibo island after the passage of the cyclone Kenneth, the first to hit Mozambique's north in the modern era. Islamist insurgents have resumed attacks in northern Mozambique after a cyclone last month, killing nearly two dozen villagers and torching homes in a mounting political threat in the run-up to a general election. A shadowy jihadist group that has targeted Cabo Delgado province since October 2017 briefly halted attacks after Cyclone Kenneth made landfall on April 25, leaving 45 dead and 250,000 affected. / AFP / Emidio Jozine
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ISIS has claimed responsibility for the first time for an insurgent clash in northern Mozambique, according to Site Intelligence which monitors militant activities worldwide.

An Islamist insurgency has been growing in the Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado since 2017, with more than 200 people killed and many villages torched.

ISIS issued a statement late on Tuesday claiming involvement in an apparent gunfight with the Mozambique military in Cabo Delgado province, although an insurgency expert expressed caution over the claim.

"The soldiers of the Caliphate were able to repulse an attack by the Crusader Mozambican army in Metubi village, in the Mocimboa area," said the statement, according to a Site translation.

"They clashed with them with a variety of weapons, killing and wounding a number of them.

"The mujahideen captured weapons, ammunition, and rockets as spoils."

The Mozambican government and military decline to confirm any rebel activity.

Insurgents regularly attack villages, kill local people – sometimes beheading them – and burn down houses despite a heavy police and military presence in the northern province.

An insurgency expert who declined to be named said ISIS was unlikely to have direct contact with the local fighters.

He said the claimed attack on Monday had not been reported locally, and the village of Metubi was not in Mocimboa da Praia district.

"Islamic State is not in Mozambique. It is just propaganda, but they might have links," the expert said.

Fighters have targeted remote communities in gas-rich, Muslim-majority Cabo Delgado province since October 2017.

"The country is falling victim and we all need to understand the real reasons," Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said last month in an interview with the privately-owned Canal de Mocambique newspaper.

According to local sources, 16 people were killed in a highway ambush on May 31, in the highest single death toll of the insurgency.

Attackers threw home-made explosives into a truck – a new tactic – and then opened fire.