HARARE (Reuters) – Southern Africa’s regional bloc urged member states to support Mozambique in fighting militias with suspected links to Islamic State in the natural gas-rich north of the country.
The Mozambican interior minister said on Friday security forces had killed around 50 insurgents in recent days in the northern Cabo Delgado region that has been plagued by violence for several years.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe, who chaired a summit including the leaders of Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique, cited a growing risk of religious extremism and radicalization in southern Africa, threatening peace and security.
The meeting, under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) defence and security organ, was assessing the security situation in Mozambique.
“The extraordinary organ troika summit plus Mozambique committed and urged SADC member states to support the government of Mozambique in fighting against the terrorists and armed groups in some districts of Cabo Delgado,” the SADC said in a communique after the summit.
The statement did not say whether SADC would send troops to fight the militias. Mnangagwa said the situation in Mozambique called for “an enhanced joint action given the transnational nature of the terrorist groups”.
Since 2017, infrequent but violent raids on government buildings and villages by militias in Cabo Delgado have intensified, threatening one of Africa’s poorest nations.
Little is known about the insurgents, though initial attacks were claimed by a group known as Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama. More recently, Islamic State has claimed a number of attacks which security officials have struggled to contain.
Exxon Mobil and Total are among big international energy companies developing natural gas projects offshore from northern Mozambique.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Mark Heinrich)