Three years into the insurgency in Cabo Delgado, the fog is lifting into who the leaders of the terrorist organisation are. Last week CJI drew the por
Three years into the insurgency in Cabo Delgado, the fog is lifting into who the leaders of the terrorist organisation are. Last week CJI drew the portrait of Ibn Omar, who was identified in a video giving orders to terrorists as one of the ring-leaders of the insurgency.
Another person has emerged as a possible leader of the terrorists. Born in Mocímboa da Praia, Abdala Likonga, has been identified as another leader of the insurgency. A father of four, Likongo is married to a woman of the Makonde ethnic group identified as Estah John, who converted to Islam.
Although a successful local entrepreneur, he left for Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to receive Islamic religious education and training in insurgency operations. It is suspected that he was appointed as one of the leaders when he returned to Mozambique.
Sources told the Centre for Investigative Journalism (CJI) that after a while, Likongo devised a way to fool everyone. He forged his own death: one day Mocímboa da Praia woke up to the news of his death elsewhere in another district, where he was supposedly buried. However, his “ghost” was seen by some citizens full of life a week short of the first terrorist attack on Mocímboa da Praia in 2017.
His apparition led the authorities to arrest him for forging his death. During the subsequent questioning, he told the authorities where he had been and what he had been doing, that is, training to kill. But nobody thought this information critical to keep him detained beyond the one week he stayed in police cells.
This would prove fatal. A week later the attacks began. CJI’s source say “he was the person who directed the attack. We saw him commanding the insurgency. He was riding a Honda XL motorbike, firing a weapon with an ammunition belt around his shoulders while shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’”.
“Yes, it was him, Abdala Likongo! It was Abdala Likongo! Without a shadow of a doubt. It was him that day. We saw him; all those who were present on the day of the first attack on Mocímboa da Praia. We saw and recognised him. Even the district authorities saw him. They know that Likongo is commanding the attacks there in the bush,” stressed the source.
For a while it is assumed he had his family backing. “I don’t know exactly, but in the beginning he had the backing of some of his family members. I say this because after the first attack, he went to his niece’s house who gave him a hiding place. For a short period, they helped him hide from the authorities who unsuccessfully searched for him. When the dust settled, he got away into the surrounding think forest”.
Judging from his wife’s movements, CJI’s sources suspect she knew something about the insurgency operations. “She used to dress as a Muslim woman and frequented the mosque, but after the attack she stopped dressing like that.” Perhaps this was to keep the authorities from questioning her.
Protecting their own!
The so called local ‘Al- shabab ‘grow up before the Mozambican authorities which made a blind eye, and from the village of families, friends some became terrorists and others victims and some protecting their own.
Our sources insist that “Estah John’ who was under the matrimony forced to convert to Islam would always travelled to Pemba before an attack with excuses that there was something she had to go and do. She always took her children with her and then the terrorists would attack.” She would only return after an attack, but “whenever an attack was eminent, she would travel again. It was always like that”
This pattern was known to the authorities. “It would be too much of a coincidence that, since 2017, she always travelled just before the attacks”.
The money for the operations seem to have come from inside. “I know Likongo and his family. You know what! He never got a chance to have a formal education. He had to struggle to survive like all of us. But all of a sudden he became a successful entrepreneur in Mocímboa da Praia. He owned car accessories shops, houses to rent in the district, etc.”
However, the source could not say where the funding for his businesses came from. “Unfortunately I cannot answer your question not only because I am afraid for my life but also because I have no proof. I also don’t know who bankrolled him. But I can vouch that he was given a substantial amount. After getting the money, he travels to Kenya and Congo.”
Likongo and the youngster Ibn Omar received training in terrorist camps in the DRC. It is suspected that they established bases in Cabo Delgado with the support of their bosses and international partners, friendships strengthened during training.
They managed to deceive many youngsters from almost all over Mozambique, especially from Cabo Delgado, Nampula and Niassa, to join their group. Some were manipulated and convinced to believe it was to join a religious group that would give them scholarships to go further their in Islamic studies abroad. However, the destination were training camps in the think bushes of surrounding Mocímboa da Praia, and in Kenya and Congo, or to neighbouring Niassa, as well as Murogoro in Tanzania. Some joined willingly while others were forced to join.
So it would seem as if Mocímboa da Praia was a fertile ground for the recruitment of would be terrorists by the ring-leaders.
The ‘Sharia’ Law
It has been almost a decade, according to CJIM’s sources, that the so called ‘jihadists’ have been acting. The Mozambican central authorities have known it all along, but until today have done very little or nothing. As a consequence, thousands of people, Mozambicans, are dead. There has been more than 2,000 deaths – civilians, military, and terrorists, many not accounted, and around 300 000 thousand refugees. But all knew or at least had heard about it. “Notice the way they dress. They call themselves the best Muslims. They wore their long pants that they folded and short tunics instead of the bourkha. They pronounce differently from the Imakuas . They considered many women imoure, so much so that they disrespected them, including their mothers. They pray three times a day instead of five and entitling themselves servants of ALLAH, making justice for GOD, etc.”