Country Report on Terrorism 2019 - Chapter 1 - Mozambique

Overview: Mozambique experienced a significant increase in terrorist activity in 2019. ISIS’s affiliate in Mozambique carried out numerous attacks in northern Mozambique and Tanzania, resulting in the estimated deaths of 350 civilians and the internal displacement of 100,000 people. The Government of the Republic of Mozambique continued security operations against the ISIS-affiliated group in 2019 and made numerous arrests of terrorist suspects. In June 2019, ISIS began claiming responsibility for attacks. Reports indicate that from September to November 2019, Russia provided operational support for government-led CT operations. ISIS attacks in this area have threatened employees of an international liquid natural gas consortium, in which a U.S. company is a participant, and have prompted the consortium to approach further investment in Mozambique with caution.

2019 Terrorist Incidents: With limited exception, ISIS’s affiliate in Mozambique reportedly conducted weekly or even more frequent attacks on rural villages in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado Province. The attacks varied in intensity and scale, but generally included the use of firearms, edged weapons, and arson. The attacks often included the theft of food and other basic supplies and have displaced at least 100,000 people. In 2019, in addition to targeting civilians, ISIS’s affiliate in Mozambique conducted increasing attacks against security forces and vehicles. Fighters connected to ISIS’s affiliate in Mozambique are frequently reported to wear stolen police or military uniforms. Access constraints and limited reporting on the violence render reports of attacks difficult to verify. The following list details a small fraction of the reported incidents that occurred:

  • On February 21, terrorists attacked a convoy associated with the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation between Mocimboa da Praia and the Afungi Peninsula, killing one contractor.
  • On July 3, terrorists killed seven people, including a police officer and two children, in Lidjungo village, Nangade District. ISIS’s affiliate in Mozambique claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • On September 10, in two separate attacks in Muidumbe and Macomia Districts, ISIS’s affiliate in Mozambique burned 70 houses, vandalized a primary school, and set fire to a hospital. They killed seven police officers and one civilian, and allegedly kidnapped four women.
  • On October 13, ISIS’s affiliate in Mozambique reportedly clashed with Mozambican and Russian security forces, resulting in the deaths of 10 soldiers.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Mozambique’s current CT legislation was passed in 2018. The law provides for the punishment of anyone committing, planning, preparing, or participating in terrorist acts and stipulates punishment for individuals who travel or attempt to travel to join a terrorist organization. As of July 2019, the government reported 130 convictions related to violence in Cabo Delgado Province. To date, prosecutions have been treated as murders, arsons, and assaults, not as terrorist acts.

In 2019, Mozambican law enforcement entities, including the national police force, Rapid Intervention Unit, and National Criminal Investigative Service engaged in CT operations and activity in northern Mozambique. Mozambique does not have a CT strategy to guide operations in the North, and law enforcement agencies lack the training, equipment, and overall capacity to proactively detect, deter, or prevent acts of terrorism. Though law enforcement entities operate as part of a joint task force with military counterparts, coordination, strategic planning, interagency communications, and intelligence sharing remain significant challenges.

Border security remains a significant security challenge for Mozambique. Terrorists are known to cross the porous border into and from Tanzania, which serves as a recruitment and transit point for terrorist and criminal organizations. Government representatives from Mozambique and Tanzania have convened meetings following two 2019 attacks that resulted in the deaths of Tanzanian citizens and have publicly reconfirmed commitments to a 2018 memorandum of understanding between the two countries’ police forces.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Mozambique is a member of ESAAMLG. Mozambique is also a member of the Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network for Southern Africa (known as ARINSA). There were no significant updates in 2019.

Countering Violent Extremism: Mozambique does not have a CVE national action plan, as recommended by the UN Secretary-General’s Preventing Violent Extremism Plan of Action, but acknowledges the need for a response to terrorist violence that includes community engagement in addition to security force activity. As of November, the government was working on a five-year action plan to deter youth from engaging in terrorism. Publicly, the government refers to terrorists as “evildoers” or “insurgents.”

International and Regional Cooperation: Mozambique is a member of the AU and the Southern African Development Community but does not regularly engage on counterterrorism efforts within these organizations. Mozambique is a member of the Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism and has security cooperation MOUs with regional and international partners to include Malawi, India, Russia, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United Kingdom (UK).