The Islamic State (IS) has begun referring to its affiliated operation in Mozambique as “Wilayah Mozambique”, or Mozambique Province, a move which appears to be part of a wider reorganisation of the terror group in Africa.
Since IS claimed responsibility for its first attack in Mozambique in June 2019, it has always operated in the country under the banner of IS Central African Province (ISCAP), which also serves as an outfit for jihadist insurgencies in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The new Wilayah Mozambique was first referred to without any formal announcement in a social media post on 9 May, claiming responsibility for attacking an army post in Quiterajo in Macomia district on 7 May, killing three soldiers of the Defence and Security Forces (FDS), seizing military equipment and burning down an encampment.
This incident was corroborated by state TV broadcaster Brito Simango, who reported that an FDS source confirmed to him that “Terrorists have attacked an FDS position in Quiterajo and killed three soldiers.”
A security consultant’s report, seen by Zitamar, claimed that three soldiers killed in action were all beheaded, including the local commander. A local source told Zitamar that the commander was a senior officer with the rank of major.
On 10 May, IS social media published another post, containing pictures of weapons, ammunition, explosives and communication equipment, allegedly captured from the FDS outpost in Quiterajo. This post, and the report of the attack in the IS weekly newspaper Al-Naba, published on 13 May, were also published under the banner of Wilayah Mozambique.
Wilayah Mozambique is the second new division to have been created under the “caliph” Abu al-Hasan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi since his appointment on 10 March. In a social media post claiming responsibility for an attack in Mali on 22 March, IS designated the Sahel region as “Wilayat al-Sahel”, separating it from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).
The reasoning behind this rebranding is unclear, but it seems to point to a concerted restructuring of the IS “caliphate”.
“Islamic State in the Sahel (ISGS) was renamed ‘Wilayat al-Sahel’ in March, and with Mozambique it seems like a broader reorganization,” Ryan O’Farrell, senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation and expert on islamist movements, told Zitamar. “ISGS was ‘incorporated’ into ISWAP in March 2019, around the same time ISCAP was announced, so I don’t think the two new wilayat are a coincidence.”
“Another possibility is that with the new ‘caliph’, they need to look like they are continuing to expand, so ‘adding’ two ‘new’ provinces might be a way to do that,” O'Farrell continued. “There aren’t really any jihadist free agent groups anymore. Almost all of them - not just in Africa - have either chosen IS or Al-Qaeda or deliberately said no to both. And that makes the obligatory continuous expansion aspect of IS’ raison d’etre hard to achieve.”
This article was produced by Zitamar and Mediafax under the Cabo Ligado project, in collaboration with ACLED. The contents of the article are the sole responsibility of Zitamar News.