from ARMANDO DOMINGOS in Maputo, Mozambique
MAPUTO, (CAJ News) – THE sanctions imposed by the United States against the leaders and commanders of the insurgent group in Mozambique are the most significant action to curtail the deadly terror in the Southern African country.
It also is part of global efforts by the US to eradicate the threat of Islamist groups, particularly the al-Shabaab, Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin’ (JNIM) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The US government of President Joe Biden has designated Bonomade Machude Omar (also known as Abu Sulayfa Muhammad and Ibn Omar) and Abu Yasir Hassan, among several terrorist leaders in Africa.
Omar reportedly leads the Military and External Affairs Departments for ISIS-Mozambique.
He also serves as the senior commander and lead coordinator for all attacks conducted by the group in northern Mozambique, as well as the lead facilitator and communications conduit for the group, according to the US.
Hassan is the leader of ISIS-Mozambique.
Both led fighters during the March 2021 attacks in the northern town of Palma in the troubled Cabo Delgado state.
Omar is also allegedly responsible for some attacks in the south-eastern Mtwara region of Tanzania.
Other designated error leaders are Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, Salem ould Breihmatt, Sidan ag Hitta and Ali Mohamed Rage.
They are masterminds of the al-Shabaab and JNIM, perpetrating attacks in Kenya, Mali and Somalia.
Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said his country was committed to disrupting the financing methods of ISIS-Mozambique, JNIM, and al-Shabaab, all of which are designated Foreign Terrorist Organisations.
“Addressing the terrorist threat across the continent will require working closely with our partners to degrade the capacity and operations of these terrorist groups, combatting their control and influence in West, East and Southern Africa,” Blinken said.
As a result of the designations, all property and interests in property of these individuals must be blocked and reported to the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
In addition, people that engage in certain transactions with the individuals themselves might be exposed to designation.
“Furthermore, any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant financial transaction or provides significant financial services for the persons designated today could be subject to US correspondent account or payable-through account sanctions,” Blinken added.
The terror in Mozambique is among the newest of Islamist insurgencies to batter Africa.
An estimated 3 600 people have died in the Cabo Delgado province since 2017.
Some 800 000 people have been displaced.
The sanctions imposed by the US on the leaders of the ISIS-affiliated Ansar al-Sunna comes as Rwanda and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc deploy some troops.
In July, the European Union announced a military training mission to Mozambique.
A major breakthrough was reported on Sunday (August 8) as Rwandan and Mozambican forces reported to have retaken the city of Mocímboa da Praia.
Islamists took control of the city in August 2020 after defending government forces.
The crisis in Mozambique is set to feature prominently when SADC holds its 41st Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government in Lilongwe, Malawi on August 17-18.
There are fears the terror the crisis could spill to the rest of the region, like other insurgencies in Africa, such as the Boko Haram that started in Nigeria and spread to parts of West Africa. The al-Shabaab has its origins in Somalia but spilled to Kenya.
InterAction, the international nongovernmental organisation, said while the origins of conflict date to the 1990s when Mozambique emerged from a fifteen-year civil war, it only received global attention after the March 2021 attack on Palma.
The NGO said this was because Palma had foreigners, drawn there because of the French multinational oil and gas company Total’s project to extract the area’s massive natural gas reserves.
“This international presence ensured the crisis received more attention than those similar to it,” InterAction stated.
– CAJ News