US deploys Green Berets to defeat ISIS-linked insurgents accused of beheading children on a new front in south Africa

Army Special Forces Green Berets Chinook helicopter helocasting
US Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Green Berets observe a CH-47 Chinook helicopter conduct hoisting operations during helocast training at Eglin Base Air Force Base, Florida, February 6, 2013.

  • US Army Special Forces will train Mozambican marines for the next two months to counter al-Shabab’s spread.
  • It comes after the US listed the group as a foreign terrorist organization last week because of its links to ISIS.
  • The violence in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado has caused 2,000 deaths and displaced 670,000 people.
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The elite Green Berets have been deployed to help defeat Islamic State insurgents accused of beheading children as young as 11 in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique.

US Army Special Forces soldiers are to train Mozambican marines for the next two months to counter the rapidly escalating insurgency from ISIS-linked terrorist group al-Shabab.

It comes after the US officially listed the group as a foreign terrorist organization last week because of its links to ISIS, who it pledged allegiance to in 2018 and who claimed its first attack in June 2019.

Mozambique, in southern Africa, represents the worrying spread of Islamic insurgency on the continent. Other nations facing ISIS-linked violence include Somalia, Nigeria, Niger, Mali, and Libya.

The deployment of the Green Berets is “to prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism,” the US Embassy in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, said, The Times reported.

According to an Insider report last month, the Green Berets are called on to deploy worldwide, build lasting relationships with local groups friendly towards the United States, and then teach those groups how to kill effectively. The SF soldiers then begin going on missions with the locals and fight side-by-side.

The situation in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, which began in 2017, became even more urgent last year, with up to 3,500 fighters regularly engaging with the military to capture key towns.

At least 2,000 civilians have been killed, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project and 670,000 have been displaced, Save the Children added. Around a million people are also in need of food aid, the UN estimated.

‘They took my eldest son and beheaded him’

Cabo Delgado
Elsa, 28, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, stands with her family in a displacement camp in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique on January 26, 2021.

Children as young as 11 years old have been executed, according to Save the Children, that has spoken to displaced families that have described horrific executions by the Islamic insurgents.

One mother, Elsa, 28, whose name has been changed, told Save the Children: “That night our village was attacked and houses were burned. When it all started, I was at home with my four children.

“We tried to escape to the woods, but they took my eldest son and beheaded him. We couldn’t do anything because we would be killed too.”

Impoverished Mozambique, in southern Africa, had been relying on foreign mercenaries, mainly from South Africa, who have also been accused of human rights abuses.

An Amnesty International report found that both sides committed war crimes, with government forces responsible for abuses against civilians, something it has denied.

Mozambique violence
The remains of a burned and destroyed home is seen in the recently attacked village of Aldeia da Paz outside Macomia, Mozambique, on August 24, 2019.

Cabo Delgado has a population of 2.3 million, most of whom are Muslim, and is one of the poorest provinces in Mozambique with high illiteracy and unemployment rates, according to the BBC.

Al-Shabab, not to be confused with the Somalian al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group of a similar name, means The Youth in Arabic.

It has found ready recruits among the unemployed young people from the area, al-Jazeera reported.

Although a ruby deposit and gas field were discovered in Cabo Delgado in 2009 and 2010, creating dreams of a better life for locals, these were soon undermined by violence and extreme flooding, the BBC noted.

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7,000 ISIS fighters in Iraq are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to regroup in key areas, general warns

iraq coronavirus
An Iraqi policeman directs traffic during COVID-19 testing at the capital Baghdad’s Shorja market on February 22, 2021.

  • ISIS is using lull period caused by the pandemic to regroup, a Kurdish general told the Times.
  • Siwan Barzani said that coalition forces had been forced to suspend training due to COVID-19
  • All the while, ISIS fighters have been infiltrating the civilian population and building up their base again.
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Thousands of Islamic State jihadists are using lull period caused by the coronavirus pandemic to regroup in key areas and are threatening a new wave of attacks, a Kurdish general has warned, according to the Times. 

Siwan Barzani, a commander of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, stationed near the northern city of Arbil in Iraq, told the Times last week that as coronavirus spread throughout the world in March, coalition forces were forced to put much of their activity on hold.

They had to suspend joint raids with Iraqi forces and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces of northern Syria and are now only operating their aircraft at about 80 percent capacity, Barzani said.

On top of this, the United States completed a reduction of its forces in Iraq to 2,500 troops last month – about half the level of less than a year ago. British troops have also been sent home after Camp Taji’s military base, north of Baghdad, was handed over to Iraqi security forces last year. Only 100 British troops remain.

Officials, former fighters, and residents now fear the drawdown is creating a security vacuum in the country, Reuters reported last month. 

ISIS fighters have been exploiting the opportunity to reorganize in Iraq and are, as per the Times, emerging from hiding among civilians to start operating in the country’s mountainous regions again.

“When the liberation started for the whole area, they shaved their beards and posed as civilians, but they were waiting for the opportunity, and slowly they went back to rejoin them,” Barzani said, according to the Times.

“They reorganized themselves quicker because of the pandemic and because there were less Coalition operations. That was something that was good for them but bad for us, of course,” he added.

Barzani estimates that there are now more than 7,000 ISIS fighters in Iraq.

The group is said to have already ramped up its attacks.

According to the Associated Press, at least 20 men and women were killed in the al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria last month. The killings are largely believed to have been carried out by ISIS fighters who are punishing perceived enemies and trying to intimidate those that might not agree with their extremist ideologies. 

“Al-Hol will be the womb that will give birth to new generations of extremists,” Abdullah Suleiman Ali, a Syrian researcher who focuses on jihadi groups, told AP.

“There are several reasons behind the increase of crime, including attempts by Daesh members to impose their ideology in the camp against civilians who reject it,” Ali added.

The jihadist group has also said it was behind a double suicide bombing at a busy second-hand clothes market in Baghdad last month, which injured more than 100 people and killed at least 32.

It was the biggest suicide attack in Baghdad for three years.

At its peak of power in late 2014, ISIS controlled around 42,400 square miles (110,000 square kilometers) in Iraq and Syria, and eight million people were under its rule.

But while the jihadist group might not have control over territories, their dangerous ideologies remain widespread.

Colonel Wayne Marotto, the global coalition spokesman, told the Times: “We’ve defeated them territorially, but we haven’t defeated them ideology-wise and they are resilient, and right now what they’re doing, it’s almost like an insurgency.”

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