Ansar al-Sunna (Mozambique)

Ansar al-Sunna (transl.  Supporters of the tradition), also known as al-Shabaab, Ahlu al-Sunna, Swahili Sunna,[2] and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jammah,[3] is an Islamist militant group active in Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique.[4] The group has attacked security forces and civilians in an attempt to establish an Islamic state in the area.[5][6][7] Ansar al-Sunna's name is similar to the name of an Iraqi Sunni insurgent group that fought against US troops between 2003 and 2007. Locals call them "al-Shabaab" but they are a separate organization from Somali Al-Shabaab.[8] The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and outside observers have claimed that all or at least factions of Ansar al-Sunna have joined the Islamic State's Central Africa Province. Regardless, ISIL does not seem to actually control the Mozambican insurgents, although there is evidence that it has sent trainers to aid the insurgency.[3]

Ansar al-Sunna
LeadersVarious cell leaders
Dates of operation2015[1] – present
Active regionsCabo Delgado Province, Mozambique
IdeologySalafi jihadism
Part of Islamic State's Central Africa Province (partially or completely)
Allies Al-Shabaab (mercenaries)
Opponents Mozambique
Wagner Group
Battles and warsInsurgency in Cabo Delgado


The group was reportedly formed in Cabo Delgado by followers of the radical Kenyan cleric Aboud Rogo Mohammed who resettled in Mozambique following his death in 2012.[1] The group recruited local, frustrated youth such as fishermen, petty traders, and miners who felt neglected and ignored by the Mozambican government, while considering traditional religious authorities as too close to the state.[3] The group became increasingly violent in 2017, carrying out attacks on government and civilian targets.[1] Though a 2019 video depicted militants professing allegiance to ISIL, members rarely refer to themselves as part of that group. Propaganda is seldom issued by Ansar-al-Sunna.[9] Funding for the group is raised from illegal smuggling, religious networks, and people-traffickers.[10]

Ansar al-Sunna militants were trained by ex-policemen and ex-frontier guards who had been fired and held grudges against the government. The movement also contacted other Islamist militants in East Africa, and reportedly hired al-Shabaab trainers from Somalia, Tanzania, and Kenya. These al-Shabaab trainers acted as mercenaries, however, and aided Ansar al-Sunna due to the pay they received from the latter.[11] Some of the Ansar al-Sunna militants have also journeyed abroad to receive direct training by other militant groups.[12]

Members of Ansar al-Sunna are reportedly mostly Mozambicans from the Mocímboa da Praia, Palma and Macomia districts, but also include foreign nationals from Tanzania and Somalia. The militants are known to speak Portuguese, the official language of Mozambique, Kimwani, the local language, and Swahili, the lingua franca language spoken in the Great Lakes region. [13]


  1. ^ a b c "Ansar al-Sunna: A New Militant Islamist Group Emerges in Mozambique". Jamestown Foundation. 14 June 2018. Retrieved 15 September 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Sirwan Kajjo; Salem Solomon (7 June 2019). "Is IS Gaining Foothold in Mozambique?". Voice of America. Retrieved 15 June 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b c Dino Mahtani; Nelleke van de Walle; Piers Pigou; Meron Elias (18 March 2021). "Understanding the New U.S. Terrorism Designations in Africa". Crisis Group. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  4. ^ Centanni, Evan; Djukic, Djordje (17 August 2020). ""Islamic State" in Mozambique? Control Map & Timeline of the Insurgency". Political Geography Now. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  5. ^ "Mozambique: Islamist Raids Continuing in Mocimboa Da Praia". 5 December 2017. Archived from the original on 26 December 2017. Retrieved 27 December 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Bowker, Tom (25 August 2020). "Battle looms in Mozambique over extremists' control of port". Associated Press. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  7. ^ MacDonald, Andrew (24 August 2020). "Mozambique: Sophistication of Islamic insurgency threatens LNG plans". Groupe Jeune Afrique. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  8. ^ "Alleged Islamist base shelled near Mocimboa da Praia - By Joseph Hanlon". Archived from the original on 11 January 2018. Retrieved 2 February 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ "More misery, few answers". The Economist. 436 (9209). 26 August 2020. p. 37. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
  10. ^ "How Mozambique's smuggling barons nurtured jihadists". BBC News. 2 June 2018. Retrieved 15 September 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ "Mozambique: Former Policemen Train Islamist Group". Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo). 1 May 2018. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  12. ^ Jasmine Opperman (31 May 2018). "Is northern Mozambique faced with an emerging extremist threat?". Daily Maverik. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
  13. ^ "População captura supostos membros do grupo armado que atacou Mocímboa da Praia". Archived from the original on 26 December 2017. Retrieved 27 December 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)