A violent insurgency has plagued Cabo Delgado, Mozambique’s northernmost province, since October 2017. Ahlu-Sunnah Wa-Jama (ASWJ), the group responsible for attacks on villages and government outposts, exerts control over land and sea passages, jeopardizing the lives of residents and international investment in the area’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry.

The exploration, development and production of natural gas reserves off the coast of Mozambique have positioned the country to be one of the world’s leading natural gas exporters. French oil corporation Total operates a multibillion-dollar LNG facility in Cabo Delgado. In January 2021, an ASWJ attack prompted Total to remove all but 10% of its staff, Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne told Carta de Mozambique. After a March 2021 attack, Total evacuated its remaining employees, and operations have since stalled, according to Reuters. These outlets report that Mozambican security forces are charged with protecting a 25 km area around the LNG site, which includes both land and marine domains.

ASWJ repeatedly attacks port cities in Cabo Delgado. Because of weak interdiction capabilities, the Mozambican government has been unable to disrupt illicit trade networks in the area. ASWJ may be exploiting these networks by taxing illegal goods through insurgent-held territory. Maritime control is essential to manage the insurgency in northern Mozambique.

For this edition of Maxar Spotlight, we examined Mozambican maritime monitoring assets and points of intensifying conflict. Maxar’s geospatial experts used SecureWatch, GeoHIVE and Emerging Hot Spot Analysis to access high-resolution imagery securely, validate features of interest and identify trends.

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Sneak Peek: (excerpt from Maxar Spotlight, Vol. 28)

The city of Mocímboa da Praia registers as a consecutive hot spot, with consistent levels of conflict throughout the data-collection period. This supports Maxar’s research findings on the ASWJ insurgency in the seaside town. Sporadic hot spots are concentrated around the port of Mocímboa da Praia and north at Palma, indicating that conflict on land has been intermittently recorded while conflict on the shoreline has been more consistent. New hot spots in Cabo Delgado appear both inland and on the coast, reinforcing the need for Mozambican security forces to enact joint land and sea operations in their fight against the insurgency.

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