Concerns raised over suspected South African involvement in Mozambique attacks

Willem Els, senior training coordinator on terrorism for the Institute for Security Studies, said that South Africa should be extremely worried about South Africans fighting alongside the insurgent group in Mozambique.

FILE: In this file photo, a Mozambican woman walks in Palma, a small, palm-fringed fishing town meant to become a symbol of Mozambique's glittering future, transformed by one of the world's largest liquefied natural gas projects. Islamist militants have seized control of the northern Mozambique town of Palma, near a huge gas project involving French oil major Total and other international energy companies, security sources said on 27 March 2021. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - There are reports on Monday morning that South Africans may have been involved in the deadly insurgent attack on Palma in Mozambique.

More than 60 people are still missing, including South Africans, after the rebel ambush in that country last week.

At least one South African was among those killed while trying to flee a hotel in the coastal town.

READ: SA mom recalls flight from Mozambican Islamic insurgents with body of dead son

Willem Els is a senior training coordinator on terrorism for the Institute for Security Studies.

He said that South Africa should be extremely worried about South Africans fighting alongside the insurgent group in Mozambique.

“As we know, the Hawks actually admitted there are 12 South Africans fighting with these people, so it’s possible that these South Africans are fighting with these people on the attack. There might be more, some assumed leadership positions within the group.

“They are gaining some experience there, some brutal attacks, some might even return as foreign-trained fighters back to South Africa.”

ALSO READ: Dozens still unaccounted for in Mozambique following Islamist attacks

Els said that these South African militants might return home to South Africa as seen in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Syria as foreign-trained fighters.

The Department of International Relations has not yet been available for comment or clarity on these reports.

The ISS said that over the weekend, there was talk of South Africa helping with rescue operations.

Martin Ewi is an international crime senior researcher and he said that it's not yet clear what the group was demanding.

"A video from 2019 said that they wanted to replace the Mozambican government with sharia and that they would fight for the application of sharia in Mozambique, which is very strange."

Els added that South Africa could only intervene if the Mozambican government wanted help.

"They regard themselves as sovereign and are standing very steadfastly on that principle. So that makes it very difficult if they are not very eager to invite foreign boots on the ground in order to assist the situation there. They are of the opinion that they are on top of the situation and that they can deal with it themselves."

Human Rights Watch's Dewa Mavhinga said that the African Union must intervene.

"There is virtually no response from the African Union and so the response is not coordinated and bilateral in terms of which countries Mozambique chooses to approach and that then weakens the overall response."

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