These are the types of weapons used by insurgents in Mozambique

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A military convoy of South Africa National Defence Forces rides along a dirt road in the Maringanha district in Pemba, Mozambique.
A military convoy of South Africa National Defence Forces rides along a dirt road in the Maringanha district in Pemba, Mozambique.
Alfredo Zuniga / AFP
  • Insurgents are armed with cheap and common Chinese manufactured AK rifles.
  • ISIS fighters rely mostly on captured arms and black market gun trade.
  • Recent attacks show that ISIS fighters now have the tactical ability to fight back.

Rebel fighters in Mozambique are equipped with AK variants - mostly Chinese Type 56, Type 56-1 and Type 56-2 rifles - says Calibre Obscura, an arms research think tank.

These light arms are "cheap, common and used by local army units and police forces in both Mozambique and Tanzania", the organisation said.

Since the start of terror attacks in the Cabo Delgado province in 2017, a huge chunk of fighter weapons were sourced through capture and raids of state armouries in both Tanzania and Mozambique, while some were sourced from the black market.

Another favourite weapon with Islamic State (ISIS)-linked militants is the Chinese Type 80 machine, which is widely used by the Mozambique Armed Defence Forces (FADM). During raids or clashes, rebels return to the area to mop up and take arms that could have been left behind by both sides.

Relying mostly on pictures and videos posted by rebel forces, Calibre Obscura notes that, from simple machete attacks to much more complex operations, it will be hard to totally defeat IS fighters.

"IS have shown improving tactical ability and surprising acumen for timing, resource management.

"The insurgents have shown their strategic ability by being able to marshal key assets in a way superior to those of the Mozambique security forces and private military contractors in order to focus on weak points, bottlenecks and to cut off supplies to areas they wish to target. This has enabled them to control large stretches of territory, with government advances usually being temporary and limited," the think tank said.

ALSO READ | SA soldier killed while fighting insurgents in Mozambique

However, the arrival of Western military assistance, Rwandan forces and the Standby Force Mission in Mozambique has proven to be too strong for rebel fighters.

Whenever insurgents are overpowered, they retreat to their bases. But, last week, Mozambican and Standby forces followed them to their base and shot dead 10 insurgents in the Macomia district. It was a retaliation to a series of attacks by Jihadists in villages.

The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project notes that attacks on insurgents should not be taken as a sign of victory because they are a flexible organisation, with an ability to re-strategise.

On Monday, the SADC mission in Mozambique said a South African soldier and six Mozambican soldiers were killed in combat in Chai, Macomia, Cabo Delgado, between 19 and 20 December. It was an ambush, a strategy that has proven effective, compared to open warfare.


- The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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