Amid a sustained campaign of raids and beheadings, Islamic State-backed insurgents appear to be adopting a more diplomatic strategy in some parts of Cabo Delgado province, peacefully buying supplies and assuring civilians they mean no harm.
The first such incident was reported at Calugo in Mocímboa da Praia on 25 January, where approximately 30 insurgents appeared, claiming they were only there to buy food and mobile phones. They stayed for several hours in the village, insisting that there was no reason to fear them, but warned residents they should not inform the security forces that they were there.
Another group of insurgents arrived at the Ravia gold mine in Meluco district on 29 January in a similar manner. They split the mine workers into Muslims and Christians but assured them that they did not come to kill, a local source told Zitamar. After buying food, clothes and other supplies they left heading west toward Montepuez district.
Most of the fighters were between 14 and 22 years old and some were from Kenya, according to the source.
Another case was reported in Nangade district on 1 February, when about 20 insurgents entered Mbuyuni village by the Nangade lagoon, separated the Christians and Muslims as they did at Ravia, and insisted they were only there to trade peacefully. The insurgents carried a bag of money and said they would do business with anyone willing, a local source reported.
Most recently, insurgents appeared in Maculo village in Mocímboa da Praia district on 3 February and called a meeting with residents, where they said they can live peacefully as long as no one collaborates with security forces, a local source said. The insurgents concluded the meeting offering to do business with the village and later bought some dried fish, according to the source.
Meanwhile, in other parts of the province, civilians continue to face the threat of insurgent violence. On 1 and 4 February, fighters indiscriminately ambushed passing vehicles along the N380 road, killing up to 8 people, including a worker for humanitarian NGO Médecins Sans Frontières. On 4 February, Islamic State also claimed to have killed five people in the village of Chapa in Mueda district and burned the village of Namoro in Montepuez.