Maputo — The Tanzanian police have claimed that the islamist terrorists operating across the border in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado pose no threat to Tanzania.
Cited by the Tanzanian paper "The Citizen", the Mtwara Regional Police Commander, Mark Njera, assured residents of Mtwara, in the far south of Tanzania, "We're safe this side."
He was speaking in the wake of the terrorist attack on the town of Palma, on 24 March. People displaced from their homes by the jihadist raid fled in all directions - including to the Tanzanian border.
Answering reports that survivors from Palma had arrived by boat in Tanzania, Njera said that was nothing to do with the police, but was "an immigration issue".
"What I can say is that everything is good and we are ready to face and control any kind of threat. So far, there is nothing wrong happening in our side," Njera told "The Citizen" in a phone interview.
Tanzania Immigration department spokesperson Paul Msele told the paper he had no information about people from Mozambique crossing to Tanzania.
When contacted for clarifications about victims trying to flee into Tanzania, Mtwara Regional Commissioner Gelasiu Byakanwa said "I do not have such information".
But the Mozambican independent television station STV reported that Mozambicans crossing the Rovuma river into Tanzania were not assisted but were sent back. They found themselves on the Mozambican bank of the Rovuma, hungry and penniless, with a long journey on foot ahead of them to reach the relative safety of Mueda.
Njera's complacent attitude contradicts the position of his superiors who were deeply concerned when, on 15 October last year, a jihadist group crossed from Mozambique and attacked the village of Kitaya, in Mtwara.
They beheaded 20 Tanzanian villagers, burnt down houses, destroyed an armoured vehicle and stole money and military equipment. The terrorist network that calls itself "Islamic State" claimed responsibility for the attack, and said it had killed three Tanzanian soldiers.
Videos and photographs circulated by the terrorists on social media show them decapitating a man and throwing his head onto a road. In the videos the murderers speak in Swahili (which is the lingua franca of much of east Africa, including Tanzania), in Emakua (one of the main languages of northern Mozambican), and in Kimwani (spoken in a few Cabo Delgado coastal districts).
In a second video, terrorists can be seen tearing up a poster of the then Tanzanian President John Maguful. "Here is the face of Magufuli, which means we are in his country. We are the Al-Shabaabs of Mozambique and we have come here to teach you our doctrine".
The Cabo Delgado group have been called "Al-Shabaab" colloquially for at least four years, and now seem to be using the name themselves. They are not known to have any formal connection with the Somali terrorist group of that name.
In November, the Mozambican and Tanzanian authorities agreed to launch joint operations against the "Islamic State" jihadists in Cabo Delgado. The General Commander of the Mozambican police force, Bernadino Rafael, met with his Tanzanian counterpart Simon Sirro in Mtwara, where they signed a memorandum of understanding.
But there is no sign of any follow-up to this agreement, and Njera's remarks clearly contradict it.