MBOMBELA – It is believed that the group headed to Nacala to bolster the Isis stronghold at the port where containers laden with drugs are offloaded monthly from cargo ships.
According to well-placed intelligence sources, the infiltrators entered from the island of Zanzibar and used Tanzania as springboard to cross the border into Mozambique. There have been numerous prior infiltrations, but this was the largest single group that came into the neighbouring state, the sources indicated.
Although not confirmed yet, security experts indicated that the jihadists may try to join forces with Renamo rebels in a united front against the Frelimo government, so as to bolster their stand in the neighbouring country.
Lowvelder can also today reveal that the Mbombela branch of home affairs has become the most sought-after port of call for illegal Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Somalian immigrants entering South Africa to buy identification documents from corrupt officials.
Also confirming the infiltration of Isis into Mozambique, another international authority on radical Islam, who asked not to be named, told Lowvelder, “Yes, definitely Al Shabaab fighters whom switched allegiance from al-Qaeda to Isis operate in northern Mozambique.”
He also confirmed the intelligence sources’ information that the containers of heroin come from Afghanistan, are transported to Pakistan and then shipped to Lamu Island off the north-eastern coast of Kenya. From there they are transported to Pemba Island in the Zanzibar Archipelago from where the shipments find their way to Port Nacala and finally to Durban.
“The Isis fighters protecting the drug shipments get a cut to fund their extremist activities,” he added.
This latest incursion happened hardly six months after a heavily armed group of militant Islamists attacked three police stations in the early hours of October 5 in Mocimboa da Praia, a small town in Cabo Delgado Province, 590 kilometres north of Nacala. Two policemen were killed, firearms and ammunition were looted and the town occupied. The locals referred to these men as the “Al Shabaabs”.
The Mozambican military acted swiftly and after a prolonged battle, 16 militants were dead. Two policemen and a local resident were also killed. Despite assurances from the Mozambican authorities that they had the situation under control, several more skirmishes occurred since January.
According to an article, “The emergence of violent extremism in northern Mozambique”, published by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies last month, the national police arrested 24 men on a bus en route from Nacala in Nampula Province. They were suspected of heading to Cabo Delgado Province to join the militants.
According to the research paper, authored by Greg Pirio and Robert Pittelli, the president and associate of the American-based Empowering Communications, and Yussuf Adam, an associate professor of contemporary history at the University of Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo, one of the leaders is a Gambian named Musa. The other, a Mozambican, goes by the name Nuro Adremane.
“The latter reportedly received a scholarship to train in Somalia, travelling by road through Tanzania and Kenya to reach Somalia, as did a number of other members of the group. The Gambian leader actively sought out recruits among segments of the population with grievances against both the security forces of an international mining company and the national police, they wrote.