In the latest of a series of gruesome attacks in Northern Mozambique, over 50 people were beheaded by Islamist militants. The militants turned a village football field into an execution ground, were they reportedly beheaded and dismembered bodies over the course of two days. Women and children were reportedly abducted.

This grisly killing, beheading and dismemberment, and kidnapping of women and children, has caught the attention of the international community.

French President Emmanuel Macron Tweeted that “more than 50 people were beheaded, women abducted, villages looted and then set on fire.” He continued that barbarians warp religion to sow terror, and that Islamist terrorism is an international threat, which requires an international response.

The South African Development Community (SADC) has pledged to support the Mozambican government in its fight against this terror. In May of this year Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) Minister Naledi Pandor said there were ongoing talks between the South African and Mozambican governments about what aid that could be provided.

According to a study about South Africa’s interest in the extremist violence in Mozambique, if the South African government decides to send in the military, the aim would be to focus on the violent activities of the extremist and militant Islamic group, Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jammah (locally known as Al Shabaab). The group aims to establish its own mosques and madrassas to enhance the spread of its radical dogma. There have been concerning activities in various regions in Africa.

Mozambique’s First Islamist Attack 3 years ago shook the Nation

For 3 years, Cabo Delgado, in northernmost Mozambique, has been under attack. Cabo Delgado is notably the poorest province of Mozambique.

In October 2017 armed militants attacked a police station, killing a police officer and critically injuring another. The assailants were identified as “Al Shabaab” and are believed to have links to ISIS. There is no reported association with the Somali group of the same name.

Various attacks have continued over the last 3 years. It is not the first time these gruesome beheadings have occurred. Villages have reportedly been burned to the ground. According to CBS News, around 2,000 people have been killed and 430,000 left homeless due to this reign of terror in the province.

Extremism and Islamist Ideals have Grown in struggling African States

According to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), there is suspicion that foreign Tanzanian fighters have radicalised the local, disenfranchised youth who are behind the extreme violence. Many of the terror group’s members appear to be socio-economically marginalised people.

According to Theo Neethling, Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Studies and Governance, University of the Free State: “Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jammah started as a religious sect which turned into a guerrilla group. Initially its goal was to impose Sharia law (Islamic law) in Cabo Delgado. It rejected the state’s schooling, health system and laws, which resulted in much tension in the province. Some analysts argue that the movement is motivated more by greed than by dogma or grievance: that it is making millions of dollars a week through criminal activities relating to mining, logging, poaching and contraband.”

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