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Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP)
Madina Tawheed Waljihad
Madina Tawheed wal Muwahedeen

Cabo Delgado province has been in the grips of a rebellion fueled by perceived neglect of the region by the national government. Islamist rebels linked to the "Islamic State" group have been exploiting the unrest, carrying out brutal attacks and recruiting disillusioned youth as they try to establish an Islamic caliphate in the region. Mozambiques army struggled to contain the fighters, who have regularly beaten back the countrys security forces and air support from a private military group to capture and hold key locations during violent raids. Emboldened, the fighters have recently expanded their sphere of operation north into Tanzania, crossing the Rovuma River that marks the border between the two countries to carry out raids on villages in Tanzanias Mtwara region.

The violence in gas-rich Cabo Delgado began in October 2017 when members of an armed group, which later pledged allegiance to ISIL, attacked police stations in the key port town of Mocimboa da Praia. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) stated in November 2020 that there has been a four-fold increase of displaced people in Cabo Delgado to more than 355,000 from some 88,000 earlier in 2020. By the end of 2020, more than 2,200 people had been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.

Mozambique and Tanzania signed a memorandum of understanding 23 Nov 2020 to join efforts in the battle against an escalating armed campaign by ISIL-linked fighters in Cabo Delgado, Mozambiques northernmost province. The agreement, sealed by the two countries police forces during the weekend, includes the extradition of 516 fighters from Tanzania to its southern neighbour. Islamist militants attacked several villages in Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique, allegedly beheading more than 50 people, state media and police said on 09 November 2020. "They set the houses on fire and then hunted down people who had fled into the woods and began their macabre action," a police officer told a press conference. Witnesses told local media that the militants had driven residents of one village onto a football pitch before murdering them there. The militants also reportedly abducted women and children.

In April 2020, the militants shot dead and beheaded more than 50 youths when they allegedly refused to join them. Islamist insurgents captured a strategic port in the restive province of Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique. The insurgents reportedly took control of the port after a Mozambican naval force defending the vicinity ran out of ammunition. The takeover of the port of Mocimboa da Praia on 12 August 2020 came after five days of fierce clashes between the insurgents and Mozambican security forces. The private South African military unit of the Dyck Advisory Group, which provides air support to the Mozambican government in combating insurgents, tried to join the battle. But its involvement was minimal, due to a helicopter refueling stop in Pemba, Cabo Delgados provincial capital.

Since 2017, Islamist militants, some of which are affiliated with the Islamic State terror group, have been carrying out attacks against civilians and Mozambican armed forces. The violence has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced over 210,000 others, according to the United Nations. IS-affiliated media released images showing dead bodies allegedly of Mozambican soldiers, as well as weapons and ammunition seized from the military. In April 2019, IS claimed the so-called Central African Province, known as IS-CAP. Terror attacks carried out by IS-CAP have so far been limited to Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The territorial losses of ISIL in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic and the weakened state of its Somalia affiliate were reported to have given momentum to Madina Tawheed Waljihad, a group that emerged in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in November 2017. Madina Tawheed Waljihad hoisted the ISIL flag and pledged allegiance to Baghdadi at its base in Medina, Beni Region, North Kivu. Although the ISIL core has not yet formally accepted the Madina Tawheed Waljihad pledge of allegiance, the group continues to try to communicate with them and to attract relocating foreign terrorist fighters to augment its ranks.

Some Member States attribute increased activities by Madina Tawheed Waljihad operatives, most of them self-radicalized lone actors, to Baghdadis 22 August 2018 speech instructing fighters to deploy to various locations, including Central Africa. Madina Tawheed Waljihad was further encouraged by Baghdadis April 2019 video, featuring a banner of the Islamic States Central Africa Province alongside its other affiliates, and started to operate under the Islamic States Central Africa Province banner.

In April 2019, IS declared its so-called Central African Province, known as ISCAP. Attacks attributed to its Central African Province affiliate have been limited to Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The threat from Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP), an offshoot of Madina Tawheed wal Muwahedeen (MTM), continued to evolve. States from the region expressed concern throughout early 2019 about the increased momentum and frequency of operations by Islamic States Central Africa Province. Although at a nascent stage, they assess that the group had the potential to evolve, attract relocators from the region and beyond, and build connections with other ISIL affiliates in Africa. One Member State reported that ISIL in Somalia had been instructed by the ISIL core to move funds to other regional affiliates, including one instance in which it was tasked with providing financial support for operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In July 2019, MTM rebranded itself by replacing its logo with that of ISIL. According to some Member States, ISCAP membership consists of 2,000 local recruits and foreign terrorist fighters from Burundi, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda. Nevertheless, Member States asserted that it was unclear how the foreign fighter elements and the local fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces and MTM had been integrated into ISCAP and the functions they performed.

In the latter part of 2019, Ansar Al Suuna in Mozambique was added to ISCAP. Consequently, the online presence of ISCAP began combining footage from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique and Somalia, an indication of coordination or attempts to unify the three theatres. Additionally, Member States observed a striking improvement in the quality and content of propaganda materials, a possible indication of new funding and resourcing of the group. One Member State reported that operations in Mozambique were planned and commanded from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

From October 2014 to November 2019, upwards of 1,000 people had been massacred in Beni territory DRC. No group has claimed responsibility for any of these killings, but the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) were key actors, at times collaborating with Congolese armed groups. The Congolese government has also been involved in some massacres.

The U.S. Department of the Treasurys Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action 07 September 2018 targeting Waleed Ahmed Zein, a terrorist in East Africa who established an intricate worldwide financial network to facilitate funds transfers for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Zein served as an important ISIS financial facilitator in East Africa in recent years. He established an intricate ISIS financial facilitation network spanning Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and Eastern Africa. Between 2017 and early 2018, Zein moved over $150,000 through his complex network. He deposited large sums of money into a personal account, claiming that the money came from a vehicle and spare auto parts company owned by a family member. Zein was ultimately arrested by Kenyan security services in July 2018.

By late 2019, slements of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) pledged allegiance to the embryonic Islamic State-Central African Province (ISCAP). The Congo Research Group, an independent nonprofit at New York University run by leading scholars on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said the militants not only espoused jihadist ideology, but also may have received funding from ISIS operatives.

In late March 2020, Mocimboa da Praia and Quissanga, two small towns in the province of Cabo Delgado, were assaulted and besieged by militants reportedly affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) terror group. The militants briefly took control of government buildings within 48 hours and raised their flag in both towns before retreating. Despite leaving Quissanga, the insurgents still control small nearby villages and say they will not leave [as long as] state military forces arent present.

Several radical militant groups have been active in Cabo Delgado in recent years, including Ansar al-Sunna, which has been responsible for terror attacks against civilians and government forces in northern Mozambique. The group is known locally as al-Shabab, although they have no known links to the armed group of that name operating in Somalia, and it also goes by Ahlu al-Sunna and Swahili Sunna.Since 2017, militants affiliated with the group have carried out attacks in the Muslim-majority gas-rich region.

The attacks in Cabo Delgado started in 2017 in the small town of Mocimboa da Praia and have now spread to seven districts, or about a third of the province's territory. More than 900 people have been killed, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED). The unrest forced more than 200,000 locals to flee and raised concern among energy giants operating in the gas-rich region.

Mozambique admitted for the first time the presence of ISIL-affiliated fighters in the country amid escalating attacks in the gas-rich Cabo Delgado northern province, according to a statement. The public acknowledgement came on 24 April 2020, just days after police reported a "massacre" of 52 villagers who had refused to be recruited into the ranks of the shadowy group that has terrorised the region's villages and towns for more than two years.

Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP), affiliated with ISIL, had claimed some of the attacks in the region since last June posting images of killed soldiers and seized weapons. In recent weeks, the fighters unmasked themselves, openly declaring their campaign to establish an "Islamist caliphate" in the gas-rich region. They have been scaling up their attacks, seizing government buildings, blocking roads and temporarily hoisting their black-and-white flag over towns and villages across the province.

While Mozambican authorities insisted the security situation in northern Mozambique remained under control, observers believe that government armed forces had failed to provide adequate security. According to the UN, the violence in Cabo Delgado has displaced more than 100,000 people throughout the province.

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Page last modified: 08-01-2021 13:49:21 ZULU