Earlier today, the Islamic State claimed its first-ever attack in Mozambique. However, it is not immediately clear if such an attack took place, since the Islamic State’s claim cannot be independently verified. There has been no mention of an attack in local press reporting.
“Thanks to God, soldiers of the Caliphate repulsed a Crusader Mozambican Army attack in Mitopy in the Mocimboa region,” the Islamic State’s statement read.
The Mocimboa district has seen several jihadist assaults over the past few years, including beheadings. Cabo Delgado has largely been the scene of the nascent jihadist insurgency in the country.
The jihadist group claimed that “several” of the soldiers were killed and wounded, while weapons – including rocket propelled grenades – were captured during the battle.
Two photos, which showed weapons and equipment allegedly captured from the Mozambican Army, were included in the claim.
In the bigger picture, the Islamic State’s exact ties to the region remain unclear.
The statement was labeled under the Islamic State’s Central African Province, using the same branding in which the group’s claims for the Democratic Republic of the Congo are released.
Since 2017, hundreds of people have been killed in violence committed by a jihadist group identified as Ansar al Sunnah, or colloquially as al Shabaab, and state responses to the attacks. In recent months, Ansar al Sunnah is reported to have increased its operational tempo in the area.
While Ansar al Sunnah is believed to have links to jihadists in Tanzania, its confirmed ties to international terrorist groups are not immediately clear. Observers of the conflict have casted doubt on its ties to al Qaeda’s Shabaab, which does operate in Tanzania.
Last year, a photo emerged claiming to show Islamic State-loyal fighters in Mozambique but it was unclear at the time if the photo was legitimate. It is also unknown if any Islamic State-loyal cell in Mozambique represents Ansar al Sunnah or if it exists as an independent entity.
A confirmed Islamic State link to the conflict in Mozambique would represent a significant shift in the understanding of the violence, but much like the overall insurgency, today’s claim of responsibility is clouded in mystery.