South Africa, Mozambique discuss aid to fight Islamist insurgency


South Africa is discussing providing assistance to fight an Islamist insurgency in northern Mozambique with links to Islamic State, according to a minister.

Insurgents have been staging attacks in Mozambique’s northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, home to gas projects led by the likes of Total and Exxon Mobil Corp, since 2017, but the violence has escalated in recent months.

Speaking on state broadcaster SABC late on Friday, minister of international relations and cooperation Naledi Pandor said the two southern African nations were in talks about what assistance South Africa could provide.

It was not clear from her comments whether this could include sending troops, though Pandor said she understood Mozambique made use of private security providers.

Her comments follow a summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional bloc whose members were urged to support Mozambique in its fight against the insurgents.

Little is known about the insurgent group that initially went by the name Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, whose tactics have included beheadings, the razing of villages and the destruction of infrastructure.

More recently, attacks in the area have been claimed by Islamic State via its official media channels and increased in intensity in the past year, with some major towns in the province seized by insurgents, albeit briefly.

The government has reported killing over 100 fighters in recent months, but analysts and others have raised concerns about a heavy-handed approach and the reported use of private military contractors.