EU sounds alarm: danger of Mozambique becoming a new base for ISIS

A WEEK AFTER the June 27-28 attacks on the town, the first documented information has come through about the destruction wrought by Jihadist groups in Mocímboa da Praia, a port town in the province of Cabo Delgado in the far north of Mozambique, close to the border with Tanzania.

The terrorists, who claim to be members of ISIS, completely burned down the local Catholic church in the town, according to information from local sources who spoke with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Photographs shown to the charity reveal the total destruction not only of the church but also of other buildings such as the Januário Pedro secondary school, the town’s district hospital and dozens of houses, cars and shops. The target was this district capital, which has a population of around 20,000 inhabitants. During the attack thousands of people fled the town.

Destroyed church in Mocímboa da Praia

Alarmed by the news of the most recent attack on Mocímboa, the External Affairs Committee of the European Parliament devoted its final session before closing on Monday July 6 to the issue of terrorist violence in the province of Cabo Delgado, calling together the leaders of the executive arm of the European Union, the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS).

Erminia Notarangelo, the head of section of the EEAS for Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean, spoke of “over 500,000 people affected by this humanitarian tragedy” and confirmed figures of “over a thousand people murdered and 200,000 displaced.” She warned that “Africa cannot afford to allow itself yet another region under terrorist rule.” Spanish Liberal Party EU deputy Javier Nart was still more specific: “Mozambique must not be allowed to turn into a new Mali.”

Paulo Rangel, Portuguese EU parliamentary deputy and vice president of the Christian Democrat Party PPE, said that “the situation is extremely worrying,” as the Cabo Delgado province is confronted with “a radical and opportunist Islamist offensive.” He added that the European Union should consider taking action by helping the government of Mozambique.

After the meeting, Paulo Rangel spoke with ACN International, emphasizing that this meeting had been “a first step towards the European Union once again putting Mozambique at the center of its humanitarian concerns.” He said that this meeting should serve to let “the victims in Mozambique know that they are not alone.”

Rangel also spoke about danger posed by the attacks for the rest of the country and for “neighboring countries.” He noted that many politicians are not aware of has been happening recently in Mozambique.

Up until now, Catholic Bishop Luiz Lisboa of Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado Province, has been one of the few voices to denounce at the international level what is happening in this region in the north of the country, an area rich in natural resources, especially natural gas. This last point was emphasized by the Portuguese socialist deputy Isabel Santos during the debate, when she suggested that the terrorist threat was “a question of power and control” with regard to the strategic and economic possibilities of the region.

Scene of terror attack in Mozambique

In an interview with ACN at the end of April, Bishop Lisboa spoke of the urgent necessity for an adequate response at the international level in order to check the Jihadist advance. The wave of violence, which began in October 2017, has worsened in recent months.

The bishop said: “It is important that people should know what is happening and that international organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union and the African Union take action. The people here have suffered greatly, there are hundreds dead, thousands who have been forced to abandon their homes. In our province we have more than 200,000 refugees. It is an injustice that cries out to heaven. The people here have very little, and what little they have they are now losing on account of this war. I appeal for help and solidarity for my people, so that they may once more be able to live in peace. For that is what they desire and deserve.”

—Maria Lozano