Analysis of the activity of ISIS’s branches in Congo and Mozambique following the imposition of US sanctions
Following the expansion of ISIS’s activity in the past year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Mozambique, the US Department of State announced on March 10, 2021, the imposition of economic sanctions on ISIS’s branch in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its leader, Seka Musa Baluku, and ISIS’s branch in Mozambique and its leader, Abu Yasir Hassan (website of the US Department of State, March 10, 2021)
Publish date : 4/6/2021

 

  • Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are part of ISIS’s Central Africa Province, whose establishment was announced by ISIS in April 2019. In practice, there are two local organizations which pledged allegiance to ISIS: Ansar al-Sunna in Mozambique and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which also calls itself Madinat al-Tawheed wal Muwahideen, in Congo. These two organizations are apparently in contact with ISIS’s leadership in Syria.
  • Both organizations have similar forms of action. ISIS’s main activity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is attacking military targets and local Christian residents. Its attacks are focused on the region of the city of Beni, in northeastern Congo, about 50 km from the border with Uganda, where most of the residents are Christian villagers.
  • In Mozambique, ISIS attacks similar targets, but it also operates against Western targets (such as gas reserves and tourist sites), especially Christian ones. It also demonstrates an ability to rule over populated regions. The epicenter of the organization’s activity is the Cabo Delgado Province in the northeast of the country, a region rich with natural gas, with tourist sites and a seaport.
  • The US sanctions reflect the US administration’s concern about the expanding activity of these organizations and the feeling, which is also supported by up-to-date research on the part of the Pentagon, that the level of success of the US military aid, including in training local armies, is low.
Characteristics of ISIS’s activity in Mozambique
ISIS in Mozambique – Ansar al-Sunna
  • The Ansar al-Sunna organization in Mozambique is referred to as “Al-Shabab” (i.e., the youth) and sometimes as “Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama’ah” or “Harakat al-Sunna wal-Jama’ah.” It started in 2007 as a small group of Islamist youth who were active in the Cabo Delgado Province, in northeastern Mozambique. In time, the group increased in number, reaching about 1,000 jihadist insurgents whose background was mainly social and economic frustration. The group’s activity began in October 2017. They pledged allegiance to ISIS in early 2018. In the beginning, the group operatives, who apparently were reinforced by other fighters from around East Africa, attacked remote rural areas. As years went by, their actions became more and more complex.[2] In 2020, the group carried out about 400 attacks, double the number of attacks carried out a year before. Three years after the organization started its attacks, more than 1,300 civilians were killed in Mozambique, hundreds of members of the security forces were killed or wounded, and about 670,000 civilians were forced to leave their homes.[3] In addition, the organization wreaked havoc on tourism and inflicted damage on the gas reserves, where much foreign funds have been invested.
  • According to the US, the organization is headed by Abu Yasir Hassan. No further details have been provided on him, apart from his name (or codename). The organization operatives attract the locals by persuading them that the local authorities are impotent and corrupt and by supplying them with food and funds. The group members are aware of the limitations of the Mozambican security forces. Disgruntled soldiers who joined their ranks added to the organization’s capabilities as they possess operational skill and also represent sources of intelligence[4].
  • The group’s epicenter is the Cabo Delgado Province, especially the region of Mocímboa da Praia. The Cabo Delgado Province is one of the poorest regions in the country, despite the potential of wealth inherent in the reserves of natural resources. Although most of the Mozambicans are Christians, Cabo Delgado has a Muslim majority (about 54%), a considerable part of which feels neglected and underprivileged. Therefore, they represent a potential pool for collaborators and recruits to the organization. The largest ethnic group in the region is the Makonde tribe, whose people live along the border between Mozambique and Tanzania and in Kenya (Wikipedia).
  • According to researcher Eleanor Beevor, the residents of the province were assimilated into criminal networks engaged in marine smuggling operations and were fertile ground for a wave of Islamist preachers who arrived in the region mainly from Tanzania, in 2014–2015, and found a sympathetic ear among local youth. These preachers not only inculcated their teenagers with radical Islamic ideology but also promised them loans to establish small businesses in return for loyalty to the group. The recruitment of the youth was even accelerated due to repressive measures against them by the army.[5]
  • According to researcher Emilia Columbo, Ansar al-Sunna has economic capability based on drug smuggling and trading in illegal timber, ivory, and rubies. According to Columbo, this may adversely affect the support of the organization leaders, who do not approve of this illegal activity, however lucrative it is. She believes that as this activity continues, it may create a rift in the ranks of the organization.[6]
Mozambique (www.worldometers.info)
Mozambique (www.worldometers.info)
Links with ISIS leadership in Syria and Iraq
  • Except for the fact that the group members pledged allegiance to ISIS, the relationship between the organizations and the extent of control by ISIS in Syria and Iraq over their activity are unclear. On November 12, 2020, the Mozambican attorney general said that the law enforcement authorities had arrested 12 Iraqi citizens suspected of supporting the rebels in the Cabo Delgado region (allafrica.com, November 12, 2020; Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2020). It can be estimated that these were ISIS operatives who arrived from Iraq to establish ISIS’s presence in the region.
Links with ISIS operatives in African countries
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo: According to Eleanor Beevor, limited coordination is maintained between ISIS’s operatives in Mozambique and the operatives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (ADF). She notes that Islamic operatives from Congo were arrested in Mozambique, which can indicate the presence of operatives from Congo in Mozambique and maybe also operatives from Mozambique operating in Congo.[7] On August 12, 2018, Mozambican chief of police Bernardino Rafael noted that one of the leaders of terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado is Abdel Rahman Faisal, who has direct links to ADF and Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama’ah. In addition, ADF recently released a propaganda video in which it expresses solidarity with Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama’ah.[8]
  • Somalia: Tore Hamming noted in his recent article that ISIS’s Central Africa Province is administratively subordinate to Maktab al-Qarar (literally, “the Office of Decision”), which is based in Somalia and is responsible for ISIS’s branches outside Syria and Iraq. This may indicate that relations are maintained between ISIS operatives in Mozambique (as well as Congo) and ISIS operatives in Somalia.[9]
Control (at least partial) over territory
  • ISIS operatives in Mozambique control several regions in the country, including (since August 12, 2020) the port city of Mocímboa da Praia, from which they apparently launch some of their attacks against the province of Cabo Delgado. This indicates ISIS’s capabilities and may subsequently result in the takeover of further territory and maybe even an attempt to establish an alternative caliphate to that which existed in Syria and Iraq.
  • Last year, ISIS also controlled, for a short period of time, the Muidumbe District, a rural region in the Cabo Delgado Province. On April 7, 2020, ISIS operatives took over four villages in the region but had to withdraw after several days. They regained control on October 31, 2020, and were repelled once again by the Mozambican army on November 16, 2020. A UN report on the situation in Cabo Delgado (March 11, 2021) revealed that half of the district’s territory is inaccessible to UN activity due to the extensive presence of terrorist operatives and military operations in the area.[10]
  • In March 2020, local sources reported that ISIS’s operatives had taken over the Quissanga region, about 120 km south of Mocímboa da Praia, in the Cabo Delgado Province. A photo was disseminated on social media showing armed ISIS operatives outside the local authority building (Telegram, March 24, 2020). According to the aforementioned UN report, the operatives are still in control of the area, which is rich in natural gas.
Characteristics of ISIS’s terror activity in Mozambique
  • The following are several incidents characterizing ISIS’s activity (according to ISIS’s announcements posted on Telegram):
Activity against the security forces
  • On November 10, 2019, the organization’s operatives ambushed Mozambican soldiers in the Macomia region, in the eastern part of the Cabo Delgado Province. Eight soldiers were killed and four others were wounded in the exchange of fire.
  • On December 6, 2019, a Mozambican army camp in the village of Malali, near Mocímboa da Praia, was attacked. A total of 16 soldiers were killed in the exchange of fire, one soldier was taken prisoner, and weapons and ammunition were seized. The attackers set fire to the camp and to several houses of supporters of the Mozambican army.
  • On March 23, 2020, five army and police posts in Mocímboa da Praia were attacked. Dozens of soldiers and policemen were killed or wounded in the exchange of fire. Weapons and ammunition, as well as a number of vehicles, were seized. According to the BBC, “Islamist militants” took over Mocímboa da Praia and a military camp and raised a jihadist flag. The Mozambican army and police mounted a counterattack. It was noted that the city is situated near an area of a $60 billion natural gas project, with foreign companies investing in the site (BBC, March 23, 2021).
Mocímboa da Praia, Mozambique (Google Maps)
Mocímboa da Praia, Mozambique (Google Maps)
Mozambican police vehicle hit by bullets (Telegram, March 24, 2020)   Rifles seized by ISIS in an attack in Cabo Delgado
Right: Rifles seized by ISIS in an attack in Cabo Delgado. Left: Mozambican police vehicle hit by bullets (Telegram, March 24, 2020)
  • On May 11, 2020, two soldiers were killed and others were wounded in an exchange of fire with the Mozambican army in one of the villages in the Cabo Delgado Province. In addition, a vehicle was seized.
  • On August 6, 2020, two Mozambican army compounds near Mocímboa da Praia were attacked. About 50 soldiers were killed or wounded in exchanges of fire that lasted for several hours. In addition, weapons and ammunition were seized.
Equipment of Mozambican soldiers seized by ISIS’s operatives.    Rifles seized by the operatives (Telegram, August 11, 2020)
Right: Equipment of Mozambican soldiers seized by ISIS’s operatives. Left: Rifles seized by the operatives (Telegram, August 11, 2020)
Attacks against local residents, mainly Christian
  • On November 11, 2019, homes of Christian residents were set on fire in one of the villages in the Cabo Delgado Province. There were exchanges of fire between ISIS and the Mozambican army. The soldiers withdrew and the operatives took over the village and set the houses on fire.
  • On May 11, 2020, two Mozambican army compounds and several houses of Christian residents were set on fire in Miengueleue, about 20 km east of Muidumbe. No casualties were reported. The compounds and the houses sustained damage.
  • On April 7-8, 2020, a total of 52 young men were slaughtered, some of them by beheading, in Xitaxi, in the Muidumbe region, after refusing to join the organization (BBC, April 22, 2020).
  •  On November 7-9, 2020, Christian villagers were murdered in several villages in Muidumbe and Macomia, about 50 km from Muidumbe, in the Cabo Delgado Province. In addition, women were abducted, and houses were set on fire (BBC, November 9, 2020; GardaWorld, November 9, 2020).
Muidumbe and Macomia, northeastern Mozambique (Google Maps), Mocímboa da Praia, northeastern Mozambique, near the border between Mozambique and Tanzania (Google Maps)   Muidumbe, northeastern Mozambique.
Right: Muidumbe, northeastern Mozambique. Left: Muidumbe and Macomia, northeastern Mozambique (Google Maps), Mocímboa da Praia, northeastern Mozambique, near the border between Mozambique and Tanzania (Google Maps)
Article in ISIS’s Al-Naba' weekly, documenting ISIS’s operatives inside the port of Mocímboa da Praia after taking over the port (Al-Naba', Telegram, August 27, 2020)      Article in ISIS’s Al-Naba' weekly, documenting ISIS’s operatives inside the port of Mocímboa da Praia after taking over the port (Al-Naba', Telegram, August 27, 2020)
Right: Article in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly, documenting ISIS’s operatives inside the port of Mocímboa da Praia after taking over the port (Al-Naba’, Telegram, August 27, 2020)
  • According to Hisham al-Najjar, an Egyptian researcher specializing in terrorist groups, the attack on Mocímboa da Praia and the takeover of the nearby port indicate a change in the organization’s modus operandi. According to Al-Najjar, until the takeover of the port, the organization’s activity mainly consisted of attacking government institutions, destroying army camps and taking control of weapons and ammunition. The attack on the port testifies to the ability to carry out a more complex operation, targeting the country’s strategic assets. In his assessment, the change stems from the adoption of a new strategy, aiming to take advantage of the world preoccupation with COVID-19 instead of fighting terrorism, while striving to create sympathy among the local residents by catering to their needs in food and weapons (Al-Arab, a pan-Arab newspaper published from London, April 14, 2020).
  • On September 15, 2020, operatives affiliated with ISIS took over two islands in the Indian Ocean close to Mocímboa da Praia, where luxurious holiday resorts are located. The operatives destroyed the hotels, drove away the residents, and imposed sharia law on the islands. On September 20, 2020, it was reported that the operatives set fire to a hotel in the Sita region, which is considered an especially luxurious hotel site, causing widespread destruction (AFP, September 15, 2020; The Daily Telegraph, September 20, 2020; The Sun, September 17, 2020; www.jihadwatch.org, September 20, 2020).
 Location of the islands in northeastern Mozambique (Google Maps)     The island of Vamizi in northeastern Mozambique.
Right: The island of Vamizi in northeastern Mozambique. Left: Location of the islands in northeastern Mozambique (Google Maps)
  • On April 8 or 10, 2020, a Gazelle helicopter crashed in one of the islands west of the city of Pemba, in the Cabo Delgado Province. It belonged to private contractors from South Africa operating in Mozambique as part of the fight against terrorism. The helicopter apparently crashed as a result of light weapon fire hitting its gearbox while it was attacking Islamic militants (Defence Web, news portal on security issues in Africa, operating from South Africa, April 15, 22, 2020). ISIS’s Amaq News Agency released a video allegedly photographed on April 8, 2020, showing operatives of ISIS’s Central Africa Province who shot down the helicopter, exchanging fire with the Mozambican army (Telegram, April 20, 2020).
Expanding activity to other countries
Terrorism spilling over from Cabo Delgado to Tanzania
  • On October 14, 2020, it was found that the organization’s activity had expanded to Tanzanian territory: ISIS operatives attacked a Tanzanian army compound in Kitaya, merely some 700 meters northwest of the border between Tanzania and Mozambique. Several soldiers were killed or wounded. Weapons and ammunition were seized, and one tank was set on fire. As far as is known, this was the first attack carried out by ISIS on Tanzanian territory. It can be estimated that those who carried out the attack were ISIS operatives from the Cabo Delgado Province who crossed the border (a distance of less than one kilometer) and apparently returned to Mozambique after the attack.
Kitaya, Tanzania (Google Maps)
Kitaya, Tanzania (Google Maps)
  • On October 29, 2020, ISIS operatives set fire to three Christian villages in the Mtwara region, in southeastern Tanzania, near the border with Mozambique. The villages sustained damage.
Threats against South Africa
  • In the main article of ISIS’s weekly Al-Naba’ published on July 2, 2020, ISIS warned South Africa not to send forces to neighboring Mozambique, threatening that South Africa will also become an ISIS target. The threat was made following news on world media, according to which the United States and European countries work to have South African forces join the fighting against ISIS in Mozambique (Al-Naba’, Telegram, July 2, 2020).
The article threatening that South Africa will become an ISIS target if it sends forces to fight ISIS in Mozambique (Al-Naba', Telegram, July 2, 2020)
The article threatening that South Africa will become an ISIS target if it sends forces to fight ISIS in Mozambique (Al-Naba’, Telegram, July 2, 2020)
Cautious optimism
  • Recently, security officials in Mozambique expressed optimism in view of a decrease in terrorism in Mozambique over the recent weeks. The decrease is apparently due to special activity by the Mozambican security forces. Owing to this activity, “only” 10 attacks were carried out in January 2021, compared to 30 in December 2020. In addition, recently, the US sent Special Forces to train Mozambican army special units in fighting against terrorism (The New York Times, March 17, 2021; AFP, February 9, 2021).[11] In spite of the optimism, the data should be examined over time.
  • In this context, it should be noted that according to a document which was leaked to the media, which was written by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a research institute that belongs to the US Department of Defense, the US army commando units sent to fight against radical terrorist groups in Africa over the past two years to reduce violence in the region have failed in their mission, and violence only escalated. The document describes a worrisome situation in the Sahel, in the region of Lake Chad and Somalia, noting a 43% increase in Islamist militant activity and violence in 2020, compared to the previous year (VICE World News, March 18, 2021). With that in mind, it will be difficult to assess the impact of US support on the security situation in the Cabo Delgado Province. It should be noted that the situation in the region is complicated in terms of ideology, politics, economy, and society; a military solution will probably not suffice to provide an answer to the intrinsic problems of the region, which are fertile ground for the development of violence.
Characteristics of ISIS’s activity in Congo
  • The organization of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which is also called Madinat al-Tawheed wal Muwahideen, i.e., City of Monotheism and Monotheists[12], was established by a group of Islamist rebels originating in Uganda, which has been operating in Congo since 1995. The organization is responsible for carrying out many attacks against civilians and members of the security forces, mainly along the border between Congo and Uganda. According to a UN report, the organization is responsible for the death of at least 849 civilians in 2020 alone. In 2014, the US Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on it, but back then, apparently there was no connection between the organization and ISIS, or at least no such connection was identified. The connection between ADF and ISIS apparently started in 2015. During the last two years, ISIS has been claiming official responsibility only for some of the attacks carried by ADF in Congo, which raises questions as to the nature of the relations between the two organizations.[13] The current announcement of the US Department of State may possibly hint that the US has information confirming actual links between the Allied Democratic Forces and ISIS.
  • Over the last year, there was a prevailing assessment among researchers that ADF is related to ISIS or is part of it, but it is unclear to what extent.[14] A report of the UN Security Council’s Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC, from June 2020, has not traced evidence indicating a direct link between the two organizations, apart from claiming responsibility for attacks and the pledge of allegiance.[15] According to the report, the claims of responsibility issued by ISIS have not necessarily been in line with actual facts on the ground. In addition, it was found that the improvised explosive devices used by ADF were different from the sophisticated explosive charges used by ISIS. Apart from that, no documentation, evidence, or any items were found to establish the existence of an organizational link between ADF and ISIS.[16]

The clause in the UN report published on June 2, 2020, stating that “The Group did not find any direct links between Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and ADF.
The clause in the UN report published on June 2, 2020, stating that “The Group did not find any direct links between Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and ADF.[17]

  • An article published recently points out links between ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and ADF. However, this article does not specify the nature of the links either, since, according to the article, it is an organization which maintains a great degree of secrecy. The article does reveal that there exists communication between ISIS’s local leadership and its central leadership in Syria and Iraq, and also financial ties of sorts.[18]
  • The relation between ADF and ISIS started in 2015, after ADF leader Jamil Mukulu was arrested and Musa Baluku, who is considered more radical, took his place. It was Baluku who made the first contact with ISIS and nurtured it. Unlike his predecessor, Baluku intended, back in 2015, to turn ADF into a global organization, and therefore a relationship with ISIS was in line with his policy. The first connection with him was possibly made through social media, which Baluku started using, mainly for propaganda needs. In 2018, the contact between Baluku and ISIS’s central leadership became stronger, and in an audiotape released by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in August 2018, the latter mentioned the existence of ISIS’s Central Africa Province. On April 18, 2019, the Central Africa Province issued its first claim of responsibility. The claim was for an attack carried out by its operatives in Congo. Since then, it has claimed responsibility for dozens of operations. In July 2019, Baluku renewed his pledge of allegiance to ISIS’s leader.
Baluku preaches to his men, ADF operatives, during Eid al-Adha (Telegram, July 31, 2021)
Baluku preaches to his men, ADF operatives, during Eid al-Adha (Telegram, July 31, 2021)
  • According to the aforementioned article, in 2001-2010, ADF operatives kept a low profile and were assimilated into the local population, including by marriage. With time, ADF became a separatist and radical Salafi-jihadist organization. Although it began carrying out attacks in Congo only in 2003 (until then it carried out attacks only in Ugandan territory), it took advantage of the forest area in the Beni region to organize its forces even before that. Starting in 2014, following a military campaign against its operatives, ADF became more aggressive and cruel, not hesitating to kill civilians, including children and old people. Since 2015, after ADF joined forces with ISIS, the global Islamic ideology and brutality constitute a joint basis for the two organizations, along with ISIS’s aspiration to expand globally.
The leader
  • Seka Musa Baluku, also referred to as Musa Baluku and Musa Seka Baluku, was apparently born in 1977 in southwestern Uganda. He became Salafi-jihadist at a younger age and served as an imam in a mosque in Kampala. He is considered to be one of the first to join ADF, and was closely associated with the organization’s previous leader, Mukulu, who appointed him to a number of posts, including the senior legal authority and the official in charge of shaping the ideology. After Mukulu was arrested, Baluku took his place as commander of the ADF and appointed himself “Sheikh.”[19]
ADF’s ties outside of Congo
  • The ADF’s ties outside of Congo and Uganda are based on ties identified in the past which may still exist today, including immigrants from Uganda who live in London. In addition, there are ties in Kenya, described as the organization’s “financial outpost”, in Tanzania and in South Africa, where ties exist mainly with ISIS’s operatives in Mozambique.
Characteristics of ISIS’s terror in Congo (based on claims of responsibility of the Central Africa Province)
  • In Congo, ISIS mainly operates against security personnel and Christian residents. The operatives also carried out an attack to liberate prisoners, apparently following a call by ISIS’s central leadership which in the past two years has reiterated the importance of liberating prisoners by force.
ISIS’s operatives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Telegram, July 24, May 30, 2019)     ISIS’s operatives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Telegram, July 24, May 30, 2019)
ISIS’s operatives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Telegram, July 24, May 30, 2019)
  • The epicenter of ISIS’s activity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the region of Beni, in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, near the border with Uganda. This region, which is inhabited by poor Christian villagers, is rich in various minerals, especially gold.
The Beni region, in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and near the border with Uganda (Google Maps)
The Beni region, in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and near the border with Uganda (Google Maps)
  • Examples of recent outstanding attacks against the Congolese army (according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility posted on Telegram):
    • On August 4, 2020, ISIS ambushed and exchanged fire with the Congolese army near one of the villages in northeastern Congo. One soldier was killed. Weapons and ammunition were seized.
    • On December 21, 2020, two security personnel were attacked and a Congolese army compound in Beni was targeted by machine gun fire. Three soldiers were killed. Weapons and ammunition were seized.
    •  On December 29, 2020, ISIS operatives halted a Congolese army attempt to advance towards the village of Lusilusi (in the Beni region), which was taken over by ISIS operatives on December 28, 2020. The operatives fired at the retreating force. At least 15 soldiers were killed and a few others were wounded. Weapons and ammunition were seized.
    • On December 31, 2020, a Congolese army compound in the Beni region was attacked, and the soldiers fled. The operatives set fire to the compound. One soldier was taken prisoner.
    • On January 12, 2021, ISIS operatives attacked a Congolese army compound in Lusilusi for several hours. An officer and 14 soldiers were killed. Weapons and ammunition were seized.
    • On January 13, 2021, there was an exchange of fire with Congolese soldiers in the Beni region. Several soldiers were killed or wounded. Weapons and ammunition were seized.
    • On February 18, 2021, a Congolese army compound in the Beni region was attacked. Several Congolese soldiers were killed or wounded in the exchange of fire. The others fled. ISIS seized weapons and ammunition.
    • On March 2, 2021, machine guns were fired at a town in the Irumu region, in northeastern Congo. At least seven soldiers and fighters of the Congolese army and militias supporting it were killed in the exchange of fire. The rest fled.
  • Attacks against Christian residents (according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility):
    • On May 12, 2020, a gathering of Christians in Iringiti, near Beni, was targeted by machine gun fire. Ten Christians were killed (Telegram, May 13, 2020).
    • On October 28, 2020, the Christian village of Biti, in the Beni region, was attacked. A total of 19 people were killed and others were wounded. In addition, 45 houses were set on fire (Telegram, October 29, 2020).
    • On December 31, 2020, the Christian village of Tingwe, in the Beni region, was attacked. At least 25 people were killed and others were wounded (AP, January 1, 2021).
    • On February 16, 2021, a group of Christians was targeted by machine gun fire in the Beni region. At least four Christians were killed (Telegram, February 17, 2021).
    • Attack against the international forces (according to ISIS’s claim of responsibility):
    • On June 22, 2020, soldiers of a UN force in the Beni region were targeted by machine gun fire. Five soldiers were killed.
    • Operation to liberate prisoners:
  •  On October 20, 2020, in the early morning hours, armed operatives broke into the Kangbayi Central Prison in the Beni region. According to the town head, Modeste Bakwanamaha, a large group of armed operatives broke into the prison with welding equipment. At the end of the attack, only 110 out of the 1,456 inmates remained in the prison (i.e., 1,346 escaped). A police official tweeted that two prisoners were shot dead during the attack (DW, October 20, 2020). ISIS’s Amaq News Agency released a statement according to which, on the morning of October 20, 2020, ISIS operatives attacked a prison and a Congolese army base in the Beni region. No further details were given.
Kangbayi Central Prison (John Kanyunyu@Kanyunyu Twitter account, which belongs to an independent journalist from the city of Beni, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, October 20, 2020)    Beni region, in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the Kangbayi Central Prison is located (Google Maps).
Right: Beni region, in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the Kangbayi Central Prison is located (Google Maps). Left: Kangbayi Central Prison (John Kanyunyu@Kanyunyu Twitter account, which belongs to an independent journalist from the city of Beni, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, October 20, 2020)
Are ISIS operatives in Congo (ADF) responsible for killing Italy’s ambassador to Congo?
  • On February 22, 2021, Italy’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo Luca Attanasio was killed in an attack on a UN convoy near Goma, in eastern Congo, near the border with Rwanda. The attack was probably carried out with the intention of abducting the ambassador. A security guard and an Italian policeman were killed along with the ambassador. So far, no organization has claimed responsibility for the attack. The blame was placed on the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the militant organization dominant in the region. However, the organization denied any connection to the incident. Elements affiliated with ISIS expressed support for the killing on social media. Although the incident occurred some 200 km south of Beni, ISIS’s epicenter of activity in Congo, it cannot be ruled out that the organization behind the attack was ADF (MEMRI, February 22, 2021; The New York Times, February 23, 2021).
  • [1] For the US Department of State’s announcement, see: https://www.state.gov/state-department-terrorist-designations-of-isis-affiliates-and-leaders-in-the-democratic-republic-of-the-congo-and-mozambique/ 
    [2] Emilia Columbo, The Secret to the Northern Mozambique Insurgency's Success. War on the Rocks. Texas National Security Review, October 8, 2020:https://warontherocks.com/2020/10/the-secret-to-the-northern-mozambique-insurgencys-success/
    The author, Emilia Columbo, is a senior associate (non-resident) in the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a research institute based in Washington D.C. Prior to this position, she served as a senior analyst at the CIA, covering African and Latin American political-security issues. 

    [3] Sam Peters, Islamic State Africa – an Inevitability?, The Organization for World Peace, 2 May 2020:https://theowp.org/islamic-state-africa-an-inevitability/
    The Organization for World Peace (OWP) works to resolve violent conflicts by peaceful means, mainly by providing aid to the displaced persons. It publishes daily and monthly reports, as well as breaking news.https://www.state.gov/state-department-terrorist-designations-of-isis-affiliates-and-leaders-in-the-democratic-republic-of-the-congo-and-mozambique/ 

    [4] Emilia Columbo, Ibid. 

    [5] Eleanor Beevor, Who are Mozambique’s Jihadists? IISS (International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, UK), 25 March 2020:
    https://www.iiss.org/blogs/analysis/2020/03/csdp-mozambique-jihadists 

    [6] Emilia Columbo, Ibid

    [7] Ibid

    [8] https://extremism.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs2191/f/The%20Islamic%20State%20in%20Congo%20English.pdf 

    [9] Tore Refslund Hamming, The Islamic State in Mozambique, WAWFARE, 24 January 2021: https://www.lawfareblog.com/islamic-state-mozambique 

    [10] The inaccessible regions mentioned in the report are the districts of Quissanga, Macomia, Meluco, Mocímboa da Praia, Muidumbe and Nangade. For the full report, see: https://reliefweb.int/report/mozambique/mozambique-update-cabo-delgado-situation-16-february-3-march-2021 

    [11] https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210209-mozambique-sees-militia-violence-dwindle-as-military-gains-steam 

    [12] The use of the word “city” probably stems from the fact that the organization operatives tried to establish a separate area in Uganda where sharia is implemented according to their ideology. This corresponds with the beginning of Islam, when the Prophet Muhammad left the city of Mecca and established the base of his forces in the city of Medina, disseminating Islam from there to the entire Arabian Peninsula. 

    [13] Daniel Fahey and Judith Verweijen, A Closer look at Congo's Islamist rebels: Claims about links to the Islamic State may hamper civilian protection. The Washington Post, September 30, 2020:https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/09/30/closer-look-congos-islamic-rebels/
    Dr. Daniel Fahey is an independent consultant on natural resources and armed conflicts, former financial expert and coordinator of the United Nations Group of Experts on DRC. Dr. Judith Verweijen is a lecturer on international relations in the University of Sheffield. Her research examines the micro-dynamics of militarization, including of conflicts around natural resources. See the wording of the UN Department of State: https://www.state.gov/state-department-terrorist-designations-of-isis-affiliates-and-leaders-in-the-democratic-republic-of-the-congo-and-mozambique/ 

    [14] Ibid

    [15] The report was submitted to the President of the UN Security Council on June 2, 2020. It includes 528 pages. As stated on p. 10, the Group did not find any direct links between Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and ADF. See https://www.undocs.org/S/2020/482

    [16] Daniel Fahey and Judith Verweijen, ibid. 

    [17] https://www.undocs.org/S/2020/482 

    [18] Tara Candland, Adam Finck, Haroro J. Ingram, Laren Poole, Lorenzo Vidino, Caleb Weiss, The Islamic State in Congo, Program on Extremism, The George Washington University, March 2021:https://extremism.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs2191/f/The%20Islamic%20State%20in%20Congo%20English.pdf 

    [19] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musa_Baluku. 

     
 
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