Islamic State Central African Province: 6-Month Outlook


    Islamic State Central African Province (ISCAP) is a regional division of the Islamic State. The group has been active in Mozambique since around 2017, the 2020 capture of the port city of Mocimboa da Praia has signalled the beginning of significant militant activity in the area.

    Key Judgement 1: It is highly likely that ISCAP will place an emphasis on foreign recruitment over the next 6 months. 

    • The Central African Province of the Islamic State is not a centralized organization. ISCAP is a set of groups which operate in parts of Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, and the DRC [source]. ISCAP’s position in Mozambique was diminished following government offensives last year. Groups aligned with the Islamic State continue to operate in the eastern DRC [source, source]. 

    • The recapture of the town of Mocímboa da Praia has deprived ISCAP of revenue from illegal mineral and narcotic trades [source]. Moreover, research indicates that politically-motivated extremism is more prevalent in East Africa than its religiously motivated counterpart [source]. The combination of sustained military engagement, lost revenue, and an unfavourable recruitment pool will increasingly pressure Islamic State-affiliated groups to broaden the scope of their recruitment in the next six months. 

    • Covid-19 related travel restrictions generally impeded the free movement of foreign fighters to conflict zones [source]. A significant number of ISCAP recruits in the DRC are foreign nationals [source].

    Key Judgement 2: It is likely that ISCAP will mount a sustained offensive against military targets over the next 6 months. 

    • The Mozambican wing of ISCAP is still active in the country’s north. The clashes this week between ISCAP and the Mozambican security forces are intensifying in pace and proximity to the regional capital, Pemba [source]. Over the course of the last few months, ISCAP-related attacks have increased in geographic scope as well. Additionally, ISCAP-aligned groups in eastern DRC such as the ADF have increased their area of operations and attacks in the last two years [source].  

    • Rwandan security forces operating in Mozambique are overstretched beyond their initial capabilities [source]. ISCAP insurgents will expand on their newfound momentum and target towns such as Pemba and Macomía, exploiting the overexerted state of intervention forces within the next six months. 

    • Mozambique saw a noticeable decline in terrorist-related incidents in 2021, more so than any other African state [source]. This was in large part due to the presence of Rwandan troops in the country. As the M23 insurgency escalates, budgetary constraints become a concern [source], and boundary disputes with the DRC become more prevalent, there is a reasonable probability that Rwanda may be pressured to reassess its military commitments. Rwanda may deploy its troops and resources to its western border.

    Key Judgement 3: It is likely that Islamic State Central African Province will continue to pose a threat to civilian life and infrastructure over the next 6 months.

    • Extremist violence in northern Mozambique creates a sense of uncertainty and a heightened perception of risk for investment and development aid [source]. Even in its diminished state, ISCAP continues to drive the displacement of thousands and carries out attacks on civilian infrastructure. This particularly impacts the country’s liquified natural gas industry (LNG) [source]. 

    • ISCAP will attempt to reconstitute its capacities by terrorizing local populations in the country’s interior [source]. In order to expand beyond indirect confrontation with security forces, the insurgents will target the towns and cities which previously afforded the group a source of revenue. Mocímboa da Praia, Palma and Macomía are likely the primary areas of focus for ISCAP operations in the next six months. 

    • The growing insurgent offensive is stifling growth in the region, exacerbating the country’s emerging food crisis [source]. As the pace of their operations increases, ISCAP will pose a significant threat to Mozambique’s LNG infrastructure and to the safety of foreign nationals in the next six months.

    Intelligence Cut-Off Date: 20th June 2022

    Alec Smith
    Alec Smith
    Alec Smith is a graduate of the MSC International Relations program of the University of Aberdeen and holds an LLB in Global Law from Tilburg University. He works in the private sector in field investigations and security.

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