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Bonomade Machude Omar, the military commander of Islamic State’s Mozambique affiliate, has been killed in battle. His death is a major blow to the insurgency, which has been holding up natural gas projects worth about $50 billion. The security situation in Cabo Delgado province remains volatile, but the death of Omar is a sign that the government is making progress in its fight against the militants.
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IS Mozambique Chief Who Led Siege Near Total LNG Site Killed
By Matthew Hill and Borges Nhamire
The military commander of Islamic State’s Mozambique affiliate, which has held up natural gas projects by TotalEnergies SE and ExxonMobil Corp. worth about $50 billion, has been killed in battle, the government said.
Bonomade Machude Omar “has been put out of action,” Joaquim Mangrasse, chief of general staff of the Mozambique Armed Forces, said on state broadcaster TVM.
Omar’s death deals a blow to the insurgency that began in 2017 in the southeast African nation’s gas-rich Cabo Delgado province. He was the lead coordinator for all attacks conducted by the group, according to the US State Department, which sanctioned him in 2021. The gas projects are yet to formally resume.
“The death of Omar alongside several other commanders are another indication that counter-insurgency efforts have had an impact and that the group is on the back foot,” said Tristan Gueret, senior analyst with Control Risks. “The success of recent operations is another positive step ahead of a resumption of LNG activity in Cabo Delgado.”
Omar — who led the deadly siege of the Amarula Hotel in Palma in March 2021 — was also the lead facilitator and communications conduit to IS in the Middle East, according to the US State Department. He was an early leader of the group that’s caused at least 4,737 deaths, according to the Cabo Ligado non-governmental organization, which monitors the violence.
The security situation in Cabo Delgado has improved since thousands of troops from Rwanda and the 16-member Southern African Development Community arrived about two years ago to help the government reassert its authority in Cabo Delgado.
Still, fighting continues, with militants having dispersed into smaller groups, President Filipe Nyusi said on state radio, in a statement confirming Omar’s death.
The group appears to have lost manpower and operational freedom this year, said Gueret. The frequency of attacks has been much less compared with 2022, and fighters cells have had to shift areas of operations frequently to escape the military.
The IS affiliate seems “unlikely to again pose a critical threat to commercial activity to the scale that it did at the time of the attack on Palma,” he said. “However, it still poses a persistent threat, particularly in central districts of Cabo Delgado, and precedents have shown that militant groups are often able to recover from the death of their senior members.”
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© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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