The Islamic State group has claimed a presence in Mozambique for the first time, announcing that its militants had repelled an army attack in the north of the country.
Over the past year, attacks by Islamist militants in northern Mozambique have forced more than a thousand people from their homes. But until now there was no obvious link between the militants and transnational jihadist groups.
The statement from IS says the militants clashed with the Mozambique army in the area of Mocimboa. This is very likely a reference to Mocimboa de Praia – a port district in the northern Cabo Delgado – which has witnessed Islamist militant attacks for more than a year.
IS said the attackers were part of its Central Africa Province branch. The group first mentioned this branch in April, in reference to attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
At a time when IS is down to its last strongholds in the Middle East, it is playing up its international affiliates. The local militants in Africa gain a morale boost from this recognition. However, there is no evidence of operational or financial support from IS for the fighters in Mozambique.
In May last year, supporters of IS on the Telegram messaging app praised the militants in Mozambique after they beheaded 10 people in the village of Monjane, near the border with Tanzania.