10 October 2017

Mozambique: Life Returns to Normal in Mocimboa DA Praia

Photo: Hamza Mohamed
Al-Shabaab fighters (file photo).

Maputo — Public and private institutions are once again functioning normally in the town of Mocimboa da Praia, in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, after last Thursday's armed attack by Islamist extremists.

The independent daily “O Pais” reports that life has returned to normal, because the Mozambican defence and security forces are now in complete control of the town.

The Cabo Delgado provincial governor, Celmira da Silva, toured all 30 neighbourhoods of the Mocimboa da Praia municipality on Monday and at the end of her visit assured reporters that the authorities now have the situation fully controlled.

Silva also met with the local authorities, including community leaders, neighbourhood secretaries and block chiefs. She urged them to remain vigilant to avoid any repetition of last week's events, in which 16 people died - two policemen and 14 members of the attacking group.

But local residents, including leaders of the Mocimboa da Praia moslem community, believe they have been vigilant, and the authorities have simply ignored their warnings. From the interviews given by residents, it is clear that the presence of an extremist group in the town was known since at least 2014.

The group consists essentially of young Mozambicans, mostly from Mocimboa, some of whom have trained at Koranic schools in Saudi Arabia and Sudan, and have adopted Wahabbism, the ultra-conservative brand of Islam which the Saudi regime is trying to export to the rest of the world.

One Mocimboa da Praia resident cited by “O Pais” declared “Twice we took some of these Al-Shabaab people to the police command, but the following day they were released, because they said there was no evidence against them. It's these people who have now created all this confusion. The authorities must take seriously the denunciations we make”.

On Monday, Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario denied that the Thursday attacks are connected to Islamic fundamentalist groups. Yet in Mocimboa they are frequently referred to by the name of the Somali terrorist group, Al-Shabaab.

Although they may not be receiving instructions from any organisation outside of Mozambique, their demands - for Sharia law, for the removal of statues of Mozambican heroes and of Christian crosses, for removal of children from state schools, for banning the sale of alcohol - seem clearly influenced by the ideology of groups such as Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, or the self-styled “Islamic State”.

Rosario called on citizens to be calm and to wait for results from the work of the police “so that, in due time, we will know the real motivations of these attacks, and who really carried them out”.

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