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Ivory Coast, Indonesia and Mozambique see the resurgence of the jihadist threat

Indonesian police stand guard outside a church after an explosion in Makassar on March 28, 2021 (INDRA ABRIYANTO / AFP)

The correspondent’s club takes you to Indonesia, Ivory Coast and Mozambique. Three countries which are seeing the resurgence of the jihadist threat and are experiencing a resurgence of terrorist acts.

In Mozambique, the city of Palma attacked by the jihadists

In Mozambique, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility on Monday for attacks carried out for nearly a week on the city of Palma, located in the north of the country, on the border with Tanzania. The predominantly Muslim area, rich in gas resources, has been shaken by jihadist violence since 2017. They are carried out by a group which calls itself “Al-Shabab” (“young people” in Arabic) and which claims to be affiliated with the ‘Islamic State.

Thousands of people have had to flee Palma since this weekend, as authorities have lost control of the city. In the emergency, the inhabitants fled as best they could, some on foot to take shelter in the forest, others were evacuated by boat to reach the town of Pemba further south, and already overcrowded with refugees. The Total gas site, located a few kilometers away and highly secure, has also seen an influx of civilians. The toll of these attacks is still unclear, and the Defense Ministry only confirms the deaths of seven people who tried to flee a besieged hotel. However, he mentions the possibility of “dozens of victims” additional. NGOs, for their part, are worried about the fate of hundreds of missing persons.

Terrorists are not at their first attempt, and are known in the region for their attacks of great violence. The conflict has indeed been brewing for years. The terrorist group feeds on the anger of young people and the poverty that affects this province of Cabo Delgado, yet rich in natural resources. Bloody attacks in villages, which often result in beheadings, have left nearly 2,600 dead and more than half a million displaced over the past four years. Last August, the Mozambican authorities had already lost control of the port of Mocimboa da Praia. This violence has prompted the Total group to once again suspend its activities in the area, while a mega gas project is supposed to see the light of day in 2024.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the police targeted by two attacks

There were two attacks on the night from Sunday to Monday in the north of the country, bordering Burkina Faso, in an area classified as red by the Quai d’Orsay. The police were targeted. The first attack took place in Kafolo, on the edge of Comoé National Park. According to the Ivorian general staff, the terrorists from Burkina Faso numbered 60, and heavily armed. The fighting with the Ivorian soldiers lasted an hour with a death toll of two, four wounded. On the terrorist side, there were three dead and four men arrested. Logistics equipment has been seized and a search operation continues. The second attack took place in Kolobougou, a little further east. A gendarmerie post was targeted and a gendarme was killed, another injured.

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Côte d’Ivoire is neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, two countries heavily affected by terrorism. This is the third time in five years that the country has been targeted. A first attack took place in 2016, where 19 people were killed in the seaside resort of Grand-Bassam. Less than a year ago, in June, a jihadist attack on soldiers left 14 people dead, already in Kafolo. An unclaimed attack but attributed to the jihadists. Today, French foreign intelligence claims that Al-Qaida in the Sahel is developing a “expansion project” towards the Gulf of Guinea, in particular Côte d’Ivoire and Benin.

In Indonesia, a church targeted by an attack

In Indonesia, a homemade bomb exploded in front of a church on the island of Celebes, in the midst of the celebration of Palm Sunday. Both terrorists are dead, and 15 victims are in hospital today. Behind this suicide bombing, there is a man and a woman. It was about a very young couple just married, the man was a street vendor in this city of more than a million inhabitants where resides a large Christian community. Both were affiliated with the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah group, a terrorist movement created in 2015 in a prison with a leader who pledged allegiance to Daesh, now sentenced to death.

Since then, this group has regularly resurfaced, in the news of the country which has the most Muslims in the world, with targets and a fairly typical modus operandi, it is often the police, the guarantors of authority and the churches who are targeted. There is usually relatively little preparation, so weapons can often be rudimentary. Sunday was a homemade bomb built with a pressure cooker and nails. In 2018, katanas were used to attack a police station. The following year, a young couple armed with a knife attempted to kill the Minister of Security and managed to give him two blows in the abdomen.

The head of intelligence then confessed that the attacks of this terrorist movement were complicated to prevent because its cells are small and its actions often opportunistic. The law therefore sought to adapt, especially after the Surabaya attacks, which traumatized the country in 2018 because three couples of terrorists had included their children in their suicide bombing plans. Since then, preventive arrests are made easier, but they do not always prevent the worst. For example, in Makassar, since the beginning of the year, 20 arrests had taken place.

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