Radical Islamic militants in the majority-Christian country of Mozambique have their eyes set on instituting Sharia law and have killed hundreds and displaced thousands in Southeast Africa.
Over the last two years, over 100,000 people have been displaced from their homes and farms in the northern province of Cabo Delgado due to increased massacres carried by terrorists.
According to the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, hundreds of villages have been burned or are now completely abandoned after jihadists carried out an “indiscriminate campaign of terror.”
Voice of America News reports that in recent weeks, jihadists seized government buildings, robbed banks, blocked roads and raised their black-and-white flags over towns and villages across the province.
The U.S. news outlet reports that the militants also released a propaganda video after a recent attack in which a jihadi is seen telling fearful residents “we want everyone here to apply Islamic law.”
In the recently released video, the jihadists don’t cover their faces.
"We don't want a government from unbelievers, we want a government from Allah," a militant was quoted as saying in the video in the local Kimwani language.
The video gives the world a glimpse at the militants' identities that have largely remained secretive and hidden. They are believed to be members of a group called Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jammeh. The group is known locally by the name al-Shabaab but is not believed to have any affiliation with the extremist faction active in Somalia and Kenya that goes by the same name.
“The hidden enemy has no face, no proposal, no interlocutor with whom one can talk,” Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa of the Diocese of Pemba, told Vatican News.
The video appeared to have been filmed in the port town Mocimboa da Praia, where the militants launched an attack in late March. The town is also where the militants staged their first attack in 2017 on police and military bases. The area is rich with gas projects worth billions.
International Christian Concern, an advocacy group based in the U.S., warned that the militants appear to share the goal of “full Sharia law to guide the government” in the region.
According to the nonprofit, this is the first time the militants in Mozambique are “claiming a political agenda.”
“This would be bad for Christians who would definitely be made lower class citizens and would likely be persecuted for their faith,” ICC warned in an April 14 report.
It is not clear whether the militants are working with any other larger terrorist organizations.
However, ICC notes that the Islamic State has recently formed an Islamic State Central African Province that has claimed responsibility for several attacks.
If the Al-Shabaab group has support from a much larger terror network, ICC stresses it could be devastating for the local population.
Affiliated Islamic State groups have wreaked havoc in sub-Saharan Africa, the Sinai, Libya, as well as Iraq and Syria.
Bishop Lisboa said there are young disillusioned residents in the area impacted by poverty who are being led to join violent groups.
Lisboa said that some gangs that operate in the region also have links to Islamic extremist groups. He added that other gangs are said to have connections to mercenaries of the troubled Democratic Republic of Congo.
As a result of the attacks, residents have fled in various directions, including small islands with nowhere to stay and limited access to clean water, according to the ECHO.
The majority of the IDPs have taken refuge with family and friends.
According to Amnesty International, al-Shabaab’s takeover of Mocimboa da Praia is the “culmination of a tragic failure by the Mozambican government to protect the people in this volatile area.”
“For almost three years, armed groups have been attacking villagers around Cabo Delgado, causing untold human suffering without being held accountable,” Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for East and Southern Africa, Muleya Mwananyanda, said in a statement. “These continued attacks are compounded by the fact that the Mozambican government is prohibiting journalists, researchers and foreign observers from accessing the area to assess the situation.”