Maputo — Two young Mozambicans who have deserted from the terrorist group active in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, and known locally as "Al Shabaab", have claimed the group is led by Tanzanian citizens, according to a report in Tuesday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias".
The two deserters, Sumail Amade and Ali Momade, abandoned the group recently after being held captives in bases they named as Naneia and Ututwa. They said those two bases had recently been destroyed by the Mozambican defence and security forces.
They said the group is led by Tanzanians, who coordinate all military activity, and are assisted by Mozambicans from Cabo Delgado who help indicate the places to be attacked.
"Other chiefs are in Dar es Salaam, where they handle the financial logistics and give instructions on how to act", said Sumail Amade. "But in Mozambique there are others who work directly with the attackers".
Sumail Amade gave these claims an entirely novel twist when he claimed the terrorists included four white South Africans, one of whom died when the defence forces overran the Naneia base. He said the other three died of hunger.
This is the first time anyone has mentioned South Africans (of any race) in connection with the islamist insurgency in Cabo Delgado. None of the South African media have mentioned South Africans going to fight in Cabo Delgado, and the Mozambican military and police have said nothing about coming across the bodies of white foreigners. Amade did not explain why the South Africans starved to death, but he and Momade did not. These far-fetched claims cast suspicion on the entire story told by the two men.
Both Amade and Momade denied doing any of the killing themselves, but they admitted taking part in raids, where they stole cassava from fields and houses to feed the group.
Amade claimed that in the bases where he was supposedly held prisoner he had seen at least 400 men, but only 27 firearms. There were also 200 women and 70 children. This is an implausibly large number of people for any base in a low level guerrilla war.
Amade admitted to joining the group voluntarily at the invitation of an acquaintance who is still in the bush. Momade said he was kidnapped by the group in Mocimboa da Praia district and was held in captivity for a month.
"We slept on the ground and we had nothing to cover ourselves with", said Momade. "Women stayed on one side and men on the other. We went to the rivers to drink water and all we ate was cassava stolen from the communities".
He said he decided to desert "because the crimes committed by this group are horrible and inhumane".
Both men claimed not to know the reasons behind the terrorist activities.