Recent attacks by a jihadi group in Mozambique demonstrate that this brand of terrorism is not going away: quite the opposite.
The continent of Africa has been a locus of terrorism, specifically Islamist extremism, for a very long time. Jihadi groups affiliated with larger organisations such as Al Qaeda (AQ) and Islamic State (ISIS) are present in at least twenty countries. Here is a short list: Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Somalia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Central African Republic and Tanzania.
We hear a lot about certain groups because a) they are very active in spreading violence and terror, and/or b) there is a lot of press coverage on them. This is certainly true for Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Shabaab in Somalia , and a variety of players in the Sahel linked to either AQ or ISIS.
Other countries get less coverage. Tanzania is a good example. That nation suffered a huge setback in August 1998 when the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, together with its counterpart in neighbouring Kenya, was hit by an AQ attack. That act of violence killed 11 and wounded 85 (the death/injury toll in Nairobi was much higher). Nothing much has happened there since.
Mozambique is not normally a country associated with this scourge. And yet over the past few years a shadowy group calling itself Al Shabaab – no relation to its namesake in Somalia – has been carrying out terrorist attacks primarily in the northern part of the nation.
On this day one year ago, four men armed with automatic rifles and machetes killed four in two attacks on agricultural workers. The assailants were not identified and there was no claim of responsibility but the incident was consistent with others ascribed to jihadis.
These extremists have also decapitated some victims. They may be tied to events in the early 2000s when some young men within the Islamic Council of Mozambique began to develop a stricter form of Islam (now where have we heard THAT before?). There are also allegations that there are ties to likeminded extremists in Tanzania.
The point of this blog is that jihadi terrorism is present in a lot of places you would not have thought of. This wave of violence is spreading and not ebbing as some officials would have you believe.
Al Shabaab may be a small terrorist organisation in Mozambique but even so it can challenge local security authorities. It would be a good idea to assist the poor east African country to deal with this criminal and heinous behaviour.