The Islamic State group claims it was involved in an insurgent clash in Mozambique for the first time, but analysts expressed doubt and Mozambican police dismissed the claim outright.
According to SITE Intelligence, a company that monitors extremist activity, Islamic State issued a statement late Tuesday claiming involvement in an apparent gunfight with the Mozambique military in Cabo Delgado.
“The soldiers of the Caliphate were able to repulse an attack by the Crusader Mozambican army in Metubi village, in the Mocimboa area,” said the statement, according to a SITE translation.
“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.
Insurgents regularly attack villages, kill local people — sometimes beheading them — and burn down houses despite a heavy police and military presence in the province that borders Tanzania.
Police on Wednesday also dismissed the Islamic State claims, which came as Muslims worldwide marked the holiday of Eid al-Fitr after the holy month of Ramadan.
“The security forces distance themselves from these reports,” police spokesman Orlando Mudumane told reporters in Maputo.
“The information is not true. The police reiterate the readiness of the security forces to combat whatever wrongdoers do.”
The police and government have a policy not to comment on any insurgent activity, even if attacks are confirmed by local people.
“There are Islamist groups in Mozambique that feel represented by IS,” Fernando Jorge Cardoso, an African specialist at the University Institute of Lisbon in Portugal, told AFP.
“But this does not mean that there was a movement of armed men to this place.
“It’s good for IS — because they can say that they are spreading, and it’s good for the local group — because they feel that they are part of a greater movement. It’s propaganda, but it has some meaning.”
Another expert on the Mozambique insurgency, who declined to be named, said Islamic State was unlikely to have any direct contact with local fighters.
“Islamic State is not in Mozambique… but they might have links,” he said. “Islamic State are struggling to survive but want to give the idea that they are active in Africa.”