Mozambique security forces identified six men regarded as ringleaders of a nascent Islamist insurgency that killed over 100 people in the north and called on local people to help capture them, news agency Lusa reported.
Bernardino Rafael, chief of police, said Abdul Faizal, Abdul Remane, Abdul Raim, Nuno Remane, Ibn Omar and a sixth known only as Salimo, led attacks in Cabo Delgado – a poor province on the border with Tanzania where companies are developing one of the biggest gas finds in a decade.
The names are the first clear sign authorities have detailed information about people behind attacks that began last October and have grown into a potential Islamist threat. Previously, authorities would only say attacks were carried out by “unknowns.”
The announcement comes as Mozambican forces carry out a series of offensives to weaken the insurgency.
“We regard these as the ringleaders,” Rafael said in Pemba, capital of Cabo Delgado. The comments were aired on national radio, according to Lusa.
“We ask anyone with any possible information that could lead to the capture of these names we’ve indicated to contact the Police of the Republic of Mozambique,” he added.
The group behind the attacks goes by the name Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, or “followers of the prophetic tradition.”
Its aim is to impose a radical form of Islam as an antidote to what it regards as corrupt, elitist rule that has broadened gaping inequality. Its activities have drawn comparisons with the start of Boko Haram in Nigeria.