Tanzania Stops Suspected Militants Flocking to North Mozambique

(Bloomberg) -- Tanzania’s police are blocking suspected militants from crossing into a gas-rich part of Mozambique, site of a burgeoning insurgency, as analysts warn East Africa’s Islamist extremist threat is expanding south.

Authorities are carrying out a “continuous operation” in Tanzania’s southeast Mtwara region, police spokesman Barnabas Mwakalukwa said Wednesday by phone. While he didn’t give details, a state-owned Mozambican news agency reported 132 people have recently been detained and police officers are traveling to the neighboring nation to investigate their motives.

Suspected Islamist militants have killed dozens of people -- many by beheading -- in overnight raids on villages in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province in the past year. They’ve also burned down hundreds of homes in the region where forthcoming natural-gas projects worth about $50 billion will be located.

Al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked militant group in Somalia, has been shifting as far south as Mozambique, according to a September report by the International Crisis Group. After losing ground in Kenya, it has put down roots in Tanzania and expanded operations in Mozambique by forging alliances with other militants there, the Brussels-based group said.

Much of northern Cabo Delgado province is densely forested, making it difficult to pursue militants. Security forces captured a suspected rebel leader near the Tanzanian border in August, while the local O Pais newspaper reported last month that 189 people, including 50 Tanzanians, are on trial for allegedly belonging to the group.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.