Recently, SOFREP published an article that U.S. Green Berets from SOCAFRICA were deployed to Mozambique to train host nation marines in the fight against Islamic jihadists in the violent province of Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique. 

The U.S. public is by now used to hearing about American efforts against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in the Middle East. But the violence and international Islamist ideology have also been spreading to the continent of Africa as underlying issues in affected African countries provide a perfect breeding ground for terrorism.

Some say that the U.S. and Europe are simply trying to build their influence in Africa along Cold War lines. Nevertheless, this thinking disregards that the terrorist groups operating in the continent openly proclaim their allegiance to either ISIS or al-Qaeda and often switch between the two. 

In Mozambique, like in many other places, the violence is increasing, especially against the civilian population.

Who Are the Terrorists in Mozambique and What Supports Them?

The fighting in Mozambique, which began in 2015, is mainly between government forces and the insurgent group Ansar al-Sunna, also known as Ahlu-Sunnah Wa-Jama (ASWJ). The group has similar views to its namesake that fought against U.S. forces in Iraq in 2003. Ansar al-Sunna claims that Islam, as practiced in Mozambique, has been corrupted and no longer follows the teachings of Muhammad. The terrorist group wants to spread a much more strict form of Islam. The locals mistakenly call the group “al-Shabaab.”

Compounding the issues in the Cabo Delgado province is the fact that the insurgents speak three different languages: Portuguese (Mozambique is a former colony of Portugal), the local dialect of Kimwane, and Swahili. An interesting footnote is that locals also call the group Swahili Sunnah (the Swahili path), which could indicate a desire to create its own Swahili state along the coast, a traditional Swahili-dominated area.

The group’s leadership follows the same tenets of international jihadism and has similar aims and goals, such as the establishment of an Islamic state following Sharia Law, while rejecting the government’s secular education system.

While local Islamic councils had warned the government of the terrorist group’s existence, nothing was done until Ansar al-Sunna began conducting attacks on several police stations, and against government officials and residents in the town of Mocímboa da Praia in Cabo Delgado Province in 2017.