The marine component of the Armed Forces for the Defence of Mozambique (FADM) is on the receiving end of training from US Special Operations Forces.
This is according to a statement issued by the US Embassy in Maputo on 15 March.
The Embassy said the two-month Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) programme launched on 15 March will see Mozambican marines benefit from the experience and knowledge of US Special Forces to up their skill levels in support of efforts by South Africa’s eastern neighbour to prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism.
Mozambique is embroiled in fighting in its Cabo Delgado province where Islamist extremists reportedly forced 670 000 people from their homes and killed a further 2 000. Islamists have also taken control of villages and towns, including the port of Mocimboa da Praia. The province is home to major oil and gas developments from offshore finds.
The statement has it that: “The US prioritises respect for human rights, protection of civilians and engagement with civil society in all security assistance. The US is committed to supporting Mozambique with a multi-faceted and holistic approach to counter and prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism. This approach addresses socio-economic development issues as well as the security situation. Civilian protection, human rights and community engagement are central to US co-operation and foundational to effectively counter Islamic State in Mozambique”.
In addition to training, the US government is providing medical and communications equipment for use by FADM.
US Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) Deputy Commander Colonel Richard Schmidt represented the US Department of Defence (DoD) during a ceremony to mark commencement of training in Mozambique this week, with Major General Ramiro Ramos Tulcidás representing the Mozambican government.
Last week the US blacklisted Islamist extremist groups in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Mozambique as foreign terrorist organisations over apparent links to Islamic State (ISIS). The groups are named ISIS-DRC and ISID-Mozambique by the US.
Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and its leader Seka Musa Baluku and Mozambique’s Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama and leader Abu Yasir Hassan were named “specially designated global terrorists.”
The designations prevent travel to the US, freeze US-related assets, ban Americans from doing business with them and make it a crime to provide support or resources to the movements.
Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, known in Mozambique as Al-Shabaab, staged its first attack in 2017. Initially known for beheadings, the fighters declared allegiance to Islamic State in 2019 and increased attacks in scale and frequency.
The Mozambican government hired South African private military firm Dyck Advisory Group (DAG) to help it fight the Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama insurgents. In a recent report titled ‘What I Saw Is Death’: War Crimes in Mozambique’s Forgotten Cape’, Amnesty International (AI) accused DAG staff of firing indiscriminately on civilians while pursuing suspected fighters.
John T Godfrey, US State Department acting co-ordinator for counter-terrorism, said last week the US was “concerned” by private contractors who have “not demonstrably helped” win the battle against Islamic State. “It’s a feature of the landscape in Cabo Delgado that complicates rather than helps efforts to address the terror threat,” he said.
A senior State Department official, speaking to the New York Times on condition of anonymity, said the US military training programme, which will focus on basic soldiering skills, could lead to more ambitious American help for Mozambique’s military including combat casualty care, planning and logistics. The US is looking to step up intelligence assistance for Mozambique, the official told the newspaper.