On June 4th, for the first time, ISIS, claimed responsibility for an attack in northern Mozambique near the Tanzanian border. Its message said, “The soldiers of the Caliphate were able to repulse an attack by the Crusader Mozambican army in Metubi village, in the Mocimboa area. They clashed with them with a variety of weapons, killing and wounding a number of them. The mujahideen captured weapons, ammunition, and rockets as spoils.”
It was in this area in 2011 that huge gas deposits were discovered off-shore in the Indian Ocean. It was the biggest natural gas discovery in at least a decade with the potential to elevate Mozambique into the top tier of gas exporters. The gas is valued at $350 billion or more than ten times the country’s gdp.
Security in the Muslim-populated north has become a major problem for Frelimo, the former guerilla organization that has ruled Mozambique since independence from Portugal in 1975. Several times this year convoys contracted to Anadarko, the big American company that is building an onshore liquefaction plant, were ambushed. In all cases the presumed attackers were Islamist terrorists linked to al-Shabaab in Somalia. Several people have been killed and two months ago one person was beheaded. Frelimo has declared the far north off limits to journalists.
Anadarko is in the process of being purchased by Occidental Petroleum, which is planning to sell off Anadarko’s African assets to Total of France.
In addition to terrorism northern Mozambique has become a major transit route for heroin that arrives in the cities of Nacala and Nampula by ship from Pakistan and is destined for markets in western Europe.
Joseph Hanlon, an American specialist on Mozambique at the London School of Economics, writes that Frelimo is involved in the heroin trade that has become Mozambique’s second largest export after coal. Hanlon says the heroin is typically packed in 1 kilogram packets and taken by drivers south to the capital of Maputo and then to Johannesburg where it goes by air to European cities.