Until recently, the top leadership of the rising Islamist Mozambican militant group, Ansar al-Sunna, had been a matter of speculation.
However, in mid-August, the country’s police chief released several names of suspected Islamists who the country’s security and intelligence agencies believe are ringleaders of the militant group. (EWN, August 15, 2018)
According to the police, Abdul Faizal leads the group locally known as al-Shabaab, similar in name to the Somalia-based militant group. No clear connection exists between the two organizations. The details of the Mozambican al-Shabaab leader are scanty. Other leaders include Abdul Remane, Abdul Raim, Nuno Remane, Ibn Omar and Salimo Kijepel (Club of Mozambique, August 13, 2018).
Since October 2017, attacks by the group have caused panic and fear in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, near the Tanzanian border. The province has been the focus of the global petroleum industry following the discovery of huge deposits of natural gas. Some multinational oil and gas companies like Italy’s Eni Oil and the U.S. Company Anadarko, among others, are building facilities in the province (AllAfrica.com August 11, 2017).
Reports indicate that the group has killed an estimated 200 people. Villages, trading centers, churches and mosques have been targeted, and an estimated 400 homes have been torched. Most of the victims have been beheaded in hit-and-run raids, during which the militants also steal food supplies. (cajnewsafrica , July 23, 2018).
Like many of the Islamist militants groups in Africa, Ansar al-Sunna is seeking to establish an Islamic State in northern Mozambique.
Earlier reports quoting local Muslim leaders alleged that the group was led by a Gambian Muslim leader, or imam, named Musa. According to the leaders, Musa had aggressively recruited in Montepeuz District among populations with grievances against the security forces and an international mining company (African Center for Strategic Studies, March 28, 2018).
The other leader identified by the Muslim leaders was Nuro Adremane, who received training from al-Shabaab fighters after traveling to Mozambique through Tanzania and Kenya. Many other fighters are alleged to have trained in Somalia.
The group started as a religious organization, but it set up military camps in 2015. Its leaders are believed to have links with Islamist militant groups in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and the Great Lakes Region. (Club of Mozambique, Jun 8, 2018). For some time, al-Shabaab, is believed to have sought to establish itself in the Great Lakes through its affiliate, the Allied F Democratic Front (ADF).