Mozambique’s stagger as African allies fight ISIS rebels


Johannesburg — Five days before Christmas, the 61 armed men gently crawling on the wooded hills near Chai village in northern Mozambique were not in the mood for a holiday.

Their mission was to “find and engage” the jihadist militants associated with the Islamic state of Central Africa with the aim of making Christian rituals a forgotten tradition.

Eleven South African SEAL soldiers and 50 Mozambique troops didn’t know it, but something was terribly wrong.

“We don’t know how it happened, but ISIS knew that our guys were coming for them. They led them to ambush,” South Africa said. A source from the Defense Force (SANDF) told The Epoch Times.

According to a South African delegation, most of the Mozambicans fled when the ammunition rang, but not before eight died as armed groups fired automatic shootings into the area.

Epoch Times Photo
A squad of South African special forces in Palol near the village of Cabo del Gado in Mozambique. (Courtesy of Douglas Burton)

Corporal Tebogo Radebe, 31, also collapsed during the shootout. This was the first time a South African special forces member died on the last day of the border war with Angola since April 4, 1989.

Radebe’s squad was so numerous that two were seriously injured, but still killed 14 armed groups.

“It was a battle hell,” a South African military official told The Epoch Times.

“But in the end, our men had to withdraw. Unfortunately, they left the radio set behind. Where did the terrorists retreat to wait for the helicopter? I think you’ve heard the radio communication that tells you exactly. “

ISIS attacked again while the team waited for rescue. The South Africans fought them again. The Orix helicopter fired at landing, but eventually lifted the squad out of the danger zone and carried the survivors, injured, and Radebe’s bodies to a safe place.

The day after Christmas, ISIS used the Arnava website to publish photos of ammunition, 60 mm mortars, and 40 mm grenades, stating that they were abandoned by “defeated enemies” as evidence of “winning.”

Major battles with the rebels

An army of 2,000 people from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, primarily South Africa, has been in resource-rich but poverty-stricken Cabodelgado since late July 2021 to counter the jihadists.

The Battle of Mozambique also has 1,000 troops from Rwanda, a small country in East Africa, a powerful ally of France.

Analysts suggest that Paris is behind Rwanda’s presence in Mozambique. In particular, to protect the $ 20 billion gas field project by French energy giant Total.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame claims his soldiers are in Cabo del Gado just because his country wants to “play a major peacekeeping role” in Africa.

However, Kagame, who has been in power for over 20 years, is known as a former rebel commander who orders guns to clean the streets rather than respecting human rights.

Armed groups belonging to ISIS claim to be fighting for access to wealth from natural resources to help poor farmers. However, according to the International Assistance Group, they have killed about 2,000 people since October 2017, expelling an estimated 800,000.

Independent intelligence agencies estimate that tracking is very difficult due to the approximately 2,000 militants in northern Mozambique, scattered across several states.

Last July, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that he would send more than 1,500 soldiers to Cabo del Gado. However, according to military sources, Mozambique has never had more than 300 South African troops at a time, which means that combat missions are assigned only to 280 special forces members. ..

The Epoch Times recently talked to some of these men.

“It doesn’t matter that our mission is dangerous. That’s our job. The problem is that we can’t fight if we’re all dead,” he said. “We go there, but we don’t get any air support when we need it. We want to go on a mission to ISIS, but we don’t want to go on a suicide mission.”

“We killed a lot … and ISIS split …”

Epoch Times Photo
(Provided by Security Research Institute)

Andre Thomashausen, a professor of international law and military historian at the University of South Africa, said the country’s special forces fighters are “significantly under-equipped.”

“They have only two helicopters, both of which have been damaged by enemy fires. The heavy rains and storms that have hit Mozambique since December are, if not impossible, anti-terrorism operations. Made it very difficult.

“Some of their vehicles aren’t suitable for this mission, and they’re understaffed. They lack the money to do more. With the few things they have, they We are doing very well to stabilize things in the area of ​​their activity, which is of course very limited. “

South African soldiers say they killed “many” ISIS-Mozambique militants in the first months of last year’s conflict, especially in northern Cabodelgado near Tanzania.

“But then the enemy began to divide,” said the officer. “It was a great move because we don’t have the resources to chase many small groups. Now all these debris groups are hiding in Tanzania and Niassa (in Mozambique). These are just bushes and Attack the village and disappear. “

Thomas Hausen said that with less than 300 soldiers fighting the “loose band” of jihadists who are very familiar with the terrain of Cabo del Gado locally, “no matter how good our special forces are” a lot. He says he can’t expect to achieve it.

In contrast, the French-backed Rwandan army has more firepower and personnel, so the Mozambican government has ordered them to fight ISIS, says Thomas Hausen.

Maputo recently extended Rwanda’s mission in Cabo del Gado for another six months.

Major Patrick Mufaradi, a spokesman for SADC’s military operations in the region, claims that 280 South African Special Forces are “only the first step” in planning a block in Mozambique.

Another Somalia?

Thomas Hausen hopes that the plan will include more support given to South Africa by neighboring countries.

Last year, Ramaphosa set a budget for three-month military deployments to South African Rand, Rand 948 million ($ 70 million).

Thomas Hausen says South Africa cannot afford to spend such money to secure foreign interests in Mozambique.

“I’m talking about some of the benefits of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, so from South Africa this is [mission] It will be more comprehensive and other countries will directly contribute to the cost. “

Following Radebe’s death, critics learned that the South African government had failed to equip soldiers with better weapons to hunt down terrorists.

Critics of SADC’s Rwanda military mission in Mozambique say that no firepower is needed to undermine the enemy enough to lay the foundation for a mission with a greater focus on humanitarian aid and development.

Thomas Hausen says it will take a long time for peace to be achieved in Cabo del Gado.

“This is a problem that arises from 30 years of bad governance.

“Mozambique is not a model country. It has a debt of € 2 billion ($ 2.2 billion) and cannot be booked.

“Currently, we are relying on South Africa and Rwanda to solve the problem of rebellion, which is the result of underdevelopment and complete neglect.

“Half of Cabo del Gado’s population has fled. The rest are scattered, hidden, and living in the most basic beings you can imagine.”

Even if all ISIS jihadists are killed tomorrow, the bad news is in Cabo del Gado, which requires extensive international humanitarian efforts, rather than the long war that other analysts risk creating another Somalia. Thomas Hausen says it will continue.

Darren Taylor

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