Mozambique Captured Rebel Leader in Gas-Rich North, Sources Say

(Bloomberg) -- Mozambican security forces carried out a major attack on a base of an Islamist militant group in the gas-rich north last week, killing at least four fighters and capturing a suspected rebel leader, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The assault took place Aug. 16 near the village of Pundanhar in Cabo Delgado province, close to the Rovuma River that separates Mozambique from Tanzania, the people said, asking not to be identified because they’re not authorized to comment publicly on an ongoing operation. Government forces caught a man named Abdul Raim, who police identified this month as a suspected leader of the group, they said.

Known as Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, which means “followers of the prophetic tradition” in Arabic, the group has been carrying out attacks in the north of Cabo Delgado since October, killing dozens of people, burning hundreds of houses, and forcing thousands to flee their villages. The raids have created security concerns for companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which plan to develop natural gas projects worth tens of billions of dollars in the region.

The group wants Sharia law introduced and comprises Mozambicans, Tanzanians and people from other countries in the region, according to researchers. They have beheaded many of their victims in night raids on villages.

Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama may get financing from smuggling goods such as timber, ivory, drugs and rubies, according to findings by researchers.

Some roads out of Palma, where the gas projects are based, were closed on Aug. 17, the people said. Several militants tried to escape across the Rovuma River, and Mozambican authorities are cooperating with officials in Tanzania to intercept them, according to one of the people.

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