A bubbling Islamist insurgency in Mozambique could grow deadlier

RESIDENTS of Naunde village were woken by gunshots at around 2am on June 5th. Two of the attackers carried guns. The other three, armed with machetes, set houses on fire. Then they chased down a local chief and hacked off his head in front of horrified neighbours. They also killed six others, including an Islamic leader whom they beheaded in a mosque.

The attack, documented by Human Rights Watch, a pressure group, is one of several dozen carried out by jihadists in Cabo Delgado—a mostly Muslim, coastal province in Mozambique’s far north—since October 2017. Recently many have followed a similar pattern: hit-and-run raids during which attackers torch houses, steal supplies and behead victims. In May terrorists decapitated ten people, including children. Officials have tried to brush off the violence as mere banditry. But the attacks appear to be increasing.

Who the killers are and what they want is not entirely clear. Uncertainty surrounds even their name. They are known as Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jamaah (Arabic for “followers of the prophetic tradition”), though locals also refer to them as al-Shabab (“the youth”). They have no known ties to the jihadist group in Somalia, which is also called al-Shabab, but some researchers think the jihadists in Mozambique have received training abroad.

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