The Islamic State has released video of a destroyed Gazelle helicopter in Mozambique, confirming reports that the aircraft went down earlier this month.
The video, from the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency, was released on 20 April and says “A helicopter was shot down by Islamic State fighters on Wednesday [8 April]”.
The video shows masked, armed men with an Islamist flag surrounding the wreckage of the burnt-out Gazelle. Whilst the wreckage does not show registration, the colour of the tail boom, which survived the fire, is consistent with Gazelle ZU-ROJ that was reported destroyed on either 8 or 10 April.
The aircraft apparently was hit by small arms fire through the gearbox while targeting Islamist insurgents. ZU-ROJ was registered to South African company Aviator at Work in December 2019 and is believed to be flown by Dyck Advisory Group (DAG). According to an unverified statement apparently from Dyck Advisory Group, ZU-ROJ and another aircraft were tasked to fly Mozambican police members to a meeting at a local village on an island 30 minutes flight time from Pemba on 10 April. According to DAG, the aircraft suffered mechanical failure and landed and when the crew returned with a mechanic they found it on fire and surrounded by people.
However, other reports suggest that the Gazelle was hit by small arms fire, and destroyed by the crew to stop it falling into enemy hands.
ZU-ROJ was earlier seen in a video flying with a second Gazelle and a Bell Long Ranger over Mozambique. One of the Gazelles was fitted with what appeared to be a door-mounted 20 mm cannon.
According to the Daily Maverick, privately owned helicopters strafed an Ahlu Sunnah wa Jamaa (ASWJ) jihadist base in Mozambique’s Muede area on 8 April and then attacked other bases in Mbau in the Awassi district and in Muidumbe the following day.
It has been reported that the helicopters in Mozambique are operated by Dyck Advisory Group, owned by former Colonel Lionel Dyck on behalf of Erik Prince’s Dubai-based Lancaster Six Group (L6G). Prince has been involved in Mozambique for some time – in July 2019 his Frontier Services Group (FSG) registered a security services company called FSG Mozambique Seguranca Lda in Mozambique, according to the government gazette.
The Gazelles in Mozambique are believed to be operated by Dyck Advisory Group on behalf of L6G, with Umbra Aviation and Ultimate Air apparently also providing assets – a UH-1 Huey, Cessna Caravan and Diamond DA 42 have also been spotted in Mozambique.
The Mozambican government is battling an escalating Islamist insurgency in the country, which has claimed more than 900 lives. In August 2019 Russian Wagner Group personnel arrived in Mozambique to help battle the Islamists, but after suffering numerous casualties, are believed to have pulled out in March this year.
Update: On 11 May, Lancaster Six told defenceWeb that “These claims are completely untrue. At no point has Lancaster Six ever been owned, operated, managed or otherwise controlled by Erik Prince; allegations to the contrary are demonstrably false & the product of either poor reporting or politically-motivated attacks.
“Lancaster Six is strictly a consulting business offering B2B & B2G services, it does not provide private military services. It has never been involved in the arms trade, taken part in any hostilities, supplied mercenaries, or engaged in any military activity in Mozambique, nor has it offered to supply such services to the government of Mozambique.
“Furthermore, Lancaster Six does not have any association or business relationship with Lionel Dyck or Dyck Advisory Group, and has no knowledge of, or involvement in, whatever business activities they may be engaged in.”