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Is ISIS Making Inroads in Southern Africa?

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The Islamic State was quick to take credit for last weeks’  attack on the town of Palma in Mozambique. IS news outlet Amaq News claimed 55 “Christians and foreigners” were killed. The ISIS claims are mainly propaganda, South African security expert Joe van der Walt told Gateway Pundit.

On Wednesday, March 25, fighters of the Al Shabab militia attacked the town of Palma in the Muslim-dominated northern province of Cabo Delgado, killing “dozens of Mozambiquan Army soldiers and Christians”, AMAQ claimed. Al Shabab simply means “Youth” and has no connection to Somali Al Shabab.

The attack was carried out with extreme violence, Daily Mail reports. with reports of babies being shot and victims beheaded. In contrast, the Mozambiquan government reported only seven dead, including two foreigners. French energy company Total runs an LPG in Palma. Most residents have fled. Foreigners were evacuated from the Amarula Hotel via speedboat and helicopter.

The Islamic State quickly took credit for the attack, leading observers to worry ISIS may be creating a new bastion in southern Africa. The local newspaper “Carta de Mocambique” pointed out that the photo AMAQ published was not from Palma, but from the town of Mocimboa da Praia, which was attacked by Islamist militias in 2020.

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Joe van der Walt, CEO of South African security experts Focus Group , told the Gateway Pundit that the Islamic State’s saber-rattling probably has little to do with reality on the ground. The Al-Shabab militia had already disappeared from Palma after looting ammunition, 90 tons of World Food Program food, and three banks. “They’re off somewhere having a big party now.”

The government of Mozambique now claims they “recaptured” Palma, but only because the attackers had already left with their booty. “They’ve discovered a good business model. The government is obviously not capable of stopping them, so why should they stop?”, said van der Walt.

The Al-Shabab attackers “were well-coordinated, well-armed and had knowledge of various security force movements”, Focus Group’s Mozambiquan subsid Rhula Intelligent Solutions reported. “Reliable information from the ground indicates that the assault began in the town as a number of insurgents had infiltrated the area prior to the incident – the insurgents hid their weaponry and were disguised as community members.”

The attack on Palma was more reminiscent of traditional African tribal raids than a revitalized Islamic State, van der Walt told Gateway Pundit. Nevertheless, the threat of Islamist terror in southern Africa is a serious one: “ISIS obviously knows about this, and if you don’t stop this, it may become a serious problem. It’s a faceless enemy right now, no one knows who’s really behind it. That’s what makes it hard to chase. The biggest problem right now is the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps south of Palma, where at least 8,200 people have fled. Some of the IDPs may have links to the insurgents, so it would be possible to activate sleepers there.”

The locals are often unhappy with their own government, which treats the population just as brutally as the militias, said van der Walt. “There’s a lot of poverty, the illiteracy rate is 80%. The energy companies like Total are making a lot of money here with LPG, but that money never reaches the population. It just lands in the pockets of corrupt officials. So naturally, a lot of people are unhappy.”

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