Friday, March 26, 2021

Piracy: "The Mozambique Channel is the next security hotspot"

A few days ago the FT's man in southern Africa, Joseph Cotterill, made passing reference to the jihadis in less judgemental terms than I used*:

From The Lowy Institute's Lowy Interpreter, March19:

An Islamist insurgency is spilling danger into a major shipping lane, and countries must decide who they want to fix it

The waters off Mozambique are becoming a major new security hotspot in the Indian Ocean. An Islamist insurrection in northern Mozambique that the government seems powerless to suppress has also increasingly led to disruption in the Mozambique Channel, a key global shipping route. The Quad countries and European partners must help contain the problem before other actors step into a regional vacuum.

The insurgency in Mozambique has the potential to destabilise Southern Africa and embolden Islamists throughout the region. It threatens security in the Mozambique Channel, the 1800 kilometre long waterway between Madagascar and East Africa that carries some 30% of global tanker traffic. It is also the location of some of the world’s largest gas reserves.

The insurgency was started in 2017 by groups drawn from Muslim communities on the so-called “Swahili coast”. This has now included more than 800 separate attacks across northern Mozambique, resulting in at least 2600 deaths and more than 600,000 people displaced. A report from the UN Secretary-General to the Security Council also pointed to transnational links, with Somali-based Islamists in Puntland acting as a “command centre” for Mozambique insurgents. However, other analysts discount close operational links with Islamic State.

Armed clashes escalated sharply in 2020, with attacks spilling over the border into Tanzania, where the government faces local Islamist extremists. There are also growing attacks on maritime infrastructure. In August, insurgents seized a key port in northern Mozambique from government forces, raising concerns that this is a first step in insurgents venturing into piracy, as occurred in the Horn of Africa.

Maritime drug smuggling is a key source of funds for insurgents. The so-called “Smack Track” has long brought heroin grown in Afghanistan down the East African coast, where a substantial portion is now landed in northern Mozambique before being transported to Europe and elsewhere. Heroin is also increasingly supplemented by crystal meth, produced in Afghanistan from local shrubs.

Map reproduced with the permission of CartoGIS Services, Scholarly Information Services, The Australian National University

Another big factor is the development of a major offshore gas industry in the Mozambique Channel off northern Mozambique. This involves planned investments of some US$50 billion to extract an estimated 100 trillion cubic feet of gas, including a major onshore gas liquification plant. France’s Total and US-based ExxonMobil are major investors. In January 2021, following a series of escalating attacks, Total began to move part of its logistical operations from northern Mozambique to safety on the French-administered island of Mayotte in the Channel....


December 29
As Tropical Cyclone "Chalane" Hits Mozambique, ISIS Declares Moz To Be The New Caliphate and Threaten $20 Billion LNG Project

....These are straight up psychopaths
From Deutsche-Welle last month:
Mozambique police: Islamists behead 50 people in troubled province

"German investors target Mozambique’s LNG, gas projects"
Careful there, German investors.*