Several Russian mercenaries have apparently been killed by Islamist insurgents in Mozambique during attacks that also killed a number of Mozambican soldiers.
According to the Moscow Times and Carta de Mozambique, on 10 October two Russian soldiers working for the Wagner private military company were shot dead after being ambushed in Cabo Delgado’s Macomia district. The publication quoted a Mozambican soldier as having witnessed the attack.
Then on 27 October, five more Russians were apparently killed during an ambush, with four shot dead and subsequently beheaded while a fifth succumbed to wounds in hospital. Apparently several vehicles were burnt and a number of Mozambican soldiers were killed in the most recent attack.
Russia’s embassy in Mozambique did not respond to a request for comment from The Moscow Times, although the embassy on Thursday told Sputnik it had no knowledge of the incidents.
According to terrorism expert Jasmine Opperman, the 27 October attack was confirmed by “various independent contacts.” She added that the “Russian presence is an undeniable reality.”
Since 2017 there have been dozens of attacks in Mozambique, mainly focussed on the Cabo Delgado region, with hundreds killed. According to the Institute for Security Studies, the upsurge in brutal violence in northern Mozambique, including the beheadings of women and children, has sounded alarms that a violent jihadist movement like Boko Haram or al-Shabaab could be evolving. Those allegedly responsible for the attacks apparently call themselves Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama (often abbreviated to al-Sunnah).
Russian advisors have apparently been deployed to Mozambique since the end of August, with local media reporting that at least 160 Russian military personnel have been in Cabo Delgado since then to help neutralise attacks in the region. In September, an Antonov An-124 transport aircraft landed in Nacala and unloaded at least one Mi-17 helicopter.
The Russians are believed to be bolstering the government’s faltering fight against jihadist extremists, reportedly beating a US private security company to the security deal, according to ISS Africa.
The Wagner group is also believed to be operating in Sudan and the Central African Republic and has apparently lost a number of personnel during fighting in Libya.