Will this be Africa’s next piracy hot spot?

Written by Nick Blenkey
Map of Africa with pin indicating location of Mozambique

Mozambique Channel could offer rich pickings for pirates. Image: Shutterstock

Maritime security and risk analysis specialist Dryad Global warns that an insurgency by a militant group in Mozambique poses a serious maritime security threat.

Dryad reports that on March 24, the militant group —Ansar al-Sunna, which is linked to the Islamic State — launched an attack on the coastal town of Palma, in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, that left 61 dead and scores more unaccounted for.

The assault lasted more than a week and took place near a major LNG plant under construction by Total.

Though the group was pushed out of Palma by Mozambican security forces, Dryad says the attack highlights the danger should the insurgents expand their ability to conduct amphibious operations.

In a similar raid last year, says Dryad, al-Sunna managed to briefly capture the key seaport of Mocimboa da Praia in a coordinated attack from land and sea. Mocimboa da Praia lies along the Mozambique Channel, the stretch of water between Mozambique and Madagascar through which 30 percent of the world’s tanker traffic passes each year.

Dryad says that ongoing al-Sunna operations indicate that the militants are growing more capable and sophisticated. In addition, Mozambican security forces arrested 12 Iraqi nationals last November on suspicion of aiding the insurgents, suggesting they could be receiving transnational support and guidance.


“Given its increased capabilities and proximity to nearby maritime trade routes, the insurgency now poses a serious maritime security threat,” warns Dryad. “In fact, all the right elements appear to be in place for the Mozambique Channel to follow the Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Guinea in becoming the next hotspot for piracy. There is no shortage of potential targets, as over 5,000 tankers and more than half of the total trade in goods for the 16 member states of the Southern African Development Community transit the channel every year.”

There are three major categories of sea piracy: armed robbery, cargo theft and kidnap for ransom.

“The first is already occurring in the Mozambique Channel, and the militants are proving they possess the coordination to conduct the other two,” cautions Dryad.

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