Tanzania arrests youth recruited by Somali militants

Tuesday December 01 2020

Police in Tanzania have arrested youth from groups that had been recruited from the western regions of Mwanza and Kigoma, and who have confessed to being the ring leaders in the insurgency. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


The breakaway faction of Somalia militants, Ahlu Sunna wa Jama, is recruiting youth in southern Tanzania to train and join terror cells in Mozambique.

Ahlu Sunna wa Jama — moderate Sufis opposed to the mainly Sunni radical Islamist groups — has been operating in the region since 2005.

Tanzania’s Inspector General of Police Simon Sirro said on Thursday that the police have arrested youth from groups that had been recruited from the western regions of Mwanza and Kigoma, and who have confessed to being the ring leaders in the insurgency.

“Some were nabbed enroute to Mozambique to join the jihadists. The game plan is that they would later join their colleagues who had fled Tanzania,” said Mr Sirro.

It is still not clear whether the recruits are supposed to return to Tanzania as sleeper cells or are going to join jihadists elsewhere.

Mr Sirro hinted that the Somalia militants could be taking advantage of the disaffections from the October elections. “Tanzanian youth who took part in the operation to attack villages confessed that they were guiding attackers showing them what houses to torch,” the IGP said.


Since 2017, the militants have been focusing their attention on Cabo Delgado Province, an investment area for oil and gas multinationals.

The strategic port is used for cargo deliveries to the $60 billion-worth gas projects located 60 kilometres further north that are being developed by oil giants Total and Exxon Mobil Corp.

In 2018, Tanzania police were on high alert following rising concerns that young fighters were travelling to northern Mozambique to join the insurgency and participate in criminal activities.

More recently, Mozambique has had to deal with persistent attacks against civilians that have claimed 70 lives in Cabo Delgado province since the attacks were first reported in 2016. Mozambican security organs have been criticised for not dealing with the threats.

Sharia law

In June 2018, the militants attacked Macomia district where 15 people were killed, most of them by beheading. Further reports indicate that Mocomis da Praia attackers have allegedly coerced local people to observe Sharia law and ban alcohol, raising suspicions that the attackers are linked to Islamist fundamentalism.

In October, assailants attacked the border village of Kitaya in southern Tanzania, with reports indicating that they targeted a cashewnut processing facility, a medical centre, a Tanzania People's Defence Force outpost, and government offices.

According to Mr Sirro, some 300 terrorists attacked the village then killed several people before fleeing to Mozambique. Some have been arrested for questioning.

A Mozambican newspaper Carta de Mocambique quoted military sources as saying the assailants entered Tanzania by sea from Cabo Delgado, and sailed along the border through Ruvuma river before they attacked the village

In August, leaders of the Southern African Development Community Monitoring group met in Maputo to discuss the increasing influence of the Islamists. More 1,500 people have been killed and tens of thousands displaced since the fighting began.