Bonomado Machude Omar ou Ibn Omar: The Mozambican face of terrorism in Cabo Delgado

Bonomado Machude Omar ou Ibn Omar: The Mozambican face of terrorism in Cabo Delgado

He is the star of a video that went viral in social media in March. He stands about 1.90m tall, stocky, wearing a black – the colours of the Daesh

He is the star of a video that went viral in social media in March. He stands about 1.90m tall, stocky, wearing a black – the colours of the Daesh – headband with the writing “La Ilaha Illallahi (There’s no deity but Allah)”, giving a prep talk in KiSwahili and KiMwani (one of the languages spoken in Cabo Delgado) to his fellow jihadis.  

The Mozambican Centro de Jornalismo Investigativo (Centre for Investigative Journalism) has identified the man as Bonomade Machude Omar aka Ibn Omar. He is a Mozambican born in the Palma district of the Cabo Delgado province, with part of his childhood spent in Mocímboa da Praia. Ibn Omar has been described as the brains behind the insurgency attacks in Cabo Delgado. He is said to define all targets and the necessary operational logistics.

A tranquil childhood

The “King of the Forest”, his nom de guerre, Bonomade Machude Omar finished his high school at Januário Pedro Secondary School in Mocímboa da Praia, and then proceeded to study Islam in various countries. When he returned to Mozambique, he got a job with the Africa Muslim Agency, in the Cabo Delgado capital city of Pemba.

CJI sources say that Ibn Omar is a great “Islamic scholar, clever and very intelligent”. As a pupil, he scored high marks, hard-working and dedicated. Nobody suspected that his future would be in the fold of Islamic terrorism. “He was calm, he did everything based on Allah’s commands; he never got involved in fights and knew how to navigate his school colleagues,” said the source.

Mocímboa da Praia’s residents describe him as the “King of the Forest”, whose behaviour changed overnight. “There was something strange about him, one could suspect of his involvement in the attacks because of the discord sowed by some of the youth he taught, on the belief what they did is what Allah wants, and justified their extremism as what pure Muslims do. He was fake, you could see the violence in his eyes, but even then he had lots of support from some community leaders and local inhabitants.”

Ibn Omar lived in the neighbourhood of Nanduandua, in Mocímboa da Praia. His father, Abdul Fomassane, is a retired teacher and a local politician. Two other youths who are also involved in the attacks grew up in the same house. “I think they’re Abdul Fomassane’s nephews. That’s how he treated them,” said the source.

Why don’t the FDS capture Ibn Omar?

CJI’s sourcessay Ibn Omar has many allies, starting from within the Mozambican defence forces (FDS) to citizens in all the districts affected by the insurgency, as well as Pemba, Maputo and Niassa provinces. But his reach is said to extend beyond the three provinces.

When the Mozambican army enters or leaves a district, Ibn Omar is informed by his network of sources spread throughout the province. In summary, he has both officials and civilians who give him information on the movements of the armed defence forces. “There’s no doubt in my mind that this is not only a question of the Islamic state, there’s someone in the corridors of power of Mozambique that stands to gain; hence the military uniform worn by the insurgents is similar to that of the FDS albeit with the flag of the Islamic State. Somebody in the logistic supply chain is involved in this macabre enterprise, and he contributes by supplying military uniform to the insurgency; as you know the terrorists even have the rice fleck patterned uniform. This is a business involving so many things,” the source said.

Sometimes bordering on the fringes of a conspiracy, the source questioned what had happened to weapons bought during the term of former President Armando Guebuza. “The luxury automatic weapons imported during Guebuza’s term allegedly for the secret service, who called Israeli soldiers to train some elements of the defence forces, where are they right now? Where are the snipers?”

The source reminded the CJI of a news story published in 2019 in the online publication “Carta de Moçambique” regarding a Facebook account under the name Shakira Junior Lecticia. One of the women in the photo said she had taken the picture to send to her boyfriend who is in the army in Macomia, in Cabo Delgado. But the photo in question ended in a closed group of people who stoked fear and violence. “Who’s that soldier? It’s clear that there are soldiers involved in these attacks, and who root for the terrorists.”

Why is it hard to dismantle the group?

The Facebook group was a closed group. Through some of the group’s publications, CJI research revealed that some of the members who “liked” the publications where all natives of Cabo Delgado, and some of them members of ruling Frelimo party youth wing, the OJM. How is it that OJM’s active members would “like” publications in which Shakira Junior Lecticia published insurgency attacks in the province. “Why did they not denounce the account? Why would the same people “like” Shakira Junior Leticia’s publications?”

It is difficult to dismantle the group because they are many and everywhere; this is an eclectic group with people everywhere. The local commanders are:

  • Bonomade Machude Omar in Mocímboa da Praia;
  • Canimambo of Macomia,
  • Mussa residente of Macomia;

 

In the bushes:

  1. Youth recruited in the local mosques, who believe they are doing Allah’s will;
  2. Youth traders who want to gain money quickly. Some of them used to sell at the Natite market, in Pemba. The consequence of their decision is that the market is almost empty;
  3. Youth active in politics in some districts, such as Macomia, to spy on what is said by government vis-à-vis the conflict; who photograph the soldiers and then supply to their friends who post them in Shakira Júnior Lecticia’s closed group.
  4. Natives who think that after a terrorist victory, they will have their Islamic State, in which the ruling elite will not be politicians who will just care for the riches but for the region’s development.
  5. Unemployed youth who were fooled into thinking they would have jobs but where forced into the bushes where they are trained and taught to kill. Should they attempt to flee the insurgency, they would be killed along with their families.

 

Who funds the group?

Since 2007, Somalis, Senegaleses, Tanzanians, etc. have been coming into Mozambique. Some of them are jihadis who came to spy on the fragility of the Mozambican state, and the viability of conducting attacks in the north of the country where the majority of the population is Muslim.

Jihadis have been in Mozambique for quite a while. They have been dormant. Some of them settled as traders and mixed with the population. It is through their businesses (shops, companies, petrol stations) that they fund the insurgency.

The group received a windfall of a weapons cache during Guebuza’s second term (2009-2014), when the current President, Filipe Nyusi, was Defence Minister. Strangely, over 200 weapons went missing along with uniforms, and nobody knows what happened since then.

The weapons had been purchased by President Guebuza’s son, Mussumbuluko, who is in jail pending his trial in connection with the $2.2 billion secret debt – the biggest scandal to rock the country.

 

Shoddy investigation by SISE

CJI learnt that the State Information and Security Service (SISE) knew that a group of youths were being recruited for militar training, and nobody knew to what ends and who was responsible for the recruitment. This took place between 2014 to 2017.  But SISE thought they were being recruited by Renamo, the main opposition party, which has also being waging a war in the centre of Mozambique. So SISE focused on investigating Renamo members in Cabo Delgado, especially in Pemba, since they were rumours that there was a recruiter in the Natite neighbourhood without success. Long before the first terrorista attack in Mocímboa da Praia in 2017, there was an event that CJI followed closely through multiple sources in the Muaria village, in Mecufi district. “Some youths were enrolled to study in a madrassah (Islamic school) with the promise they would eventually study Islam overseas,” said one of CJI’s sources. “My son no longer ate at home, he said I was impure and he could not eat meals prepared by an impure woman. That seemed strange to me. He no longer respected me. He slept in the madrassah. At nightime, we would hear noises of training; it seems as if they were training a martial art.”

“Each day I felt I was losing my son. Months later when my husband returned from Pemba, I told him of what had transpired and he also witnessed our son’s behaviour change. So he decided to learn more about the mosque. He grew more worried when out son came asking for his documents because the mosque administration was organizing a trip overseas where they would continue their studies. He contacted the authorities and told them of his concerns. We then found out it was a false mosque. It was just a building used by recruiters of innocent youth for the conflict in Cabo Delgado in the name of Allah”, she added.

Her son ended up giving up his studies, but the source said there are youngsters whose whereabouts is still not known.

The mosque belonged to a certain Abudo Sadar, and the teachers at the madrassah were Abudo Agimo, Temane, and Mahando Abdul. The mosque was eventually destroyed by the authorities and community. The men were arrested and spent between two to three months in detention. Then they were released on bail to await trials, which haven’t taken place.

Human organs business in Cabo Delgado

 It is probable that a sinister business is also a contributing factor of the war in Cabo Delgado. When the wave of terror started, the insurgents would kill their victims, and remove parts of the organs, such as the genitalia, throats, among others. Nobody has understood what they did with the body parts. Perhaps when eventually Ibn Omar is captured, if ever he is captured, we can know what was behind the inhuman act. After all, it is clear from the video he calls the shots. (x)

 

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