Italian Nun Shot and Killed in Apparent ISIS-Affiliate Attack in Mozambique

Italian Nun Shot and Killed in Apparent ISIS-Affiliate Attack in Mozambique

An Italian nun has been killed in an apparent ISIS-affiliated terrorist attack in the Mozambique city of Chipene. Gunmen stormed a Catholic mission in the city late Tuesday night. As the attack raged, two nuns were among those who fled the mission and took cover in the nearby forests, according to media reports.

The attackers set about putting the mission structures ablaze, including the church, the hospital, and the primary and secondary schools. The nun, Maria De Coppi, received a fatal gunshot wound to the head as she attempted to reach a dormitory where students were believed to be hiding.

According to media reports, Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi said “six citizens were beheaded, three kidnaped” and “six terrorists were captured and dozens of houses torched in the districts of Erati and Memba, Nampula province.”

De Coppi was ordained as a nun in 1960. After a brief stint in Portugal, she first arrived in Mozambique in 1963, when the country was still a Portuguese colony. Marie and the other nuns at the mission were members of the Comboni Missionary Sisters, a Catholic religious institute with deep ties to Africa. Mozambique is the southernmost country in Africa in which the Catholic religious institute operates.

“The murder of this Italian nun is just the latest example of these insurgents prioritizing high-profile targets in a bid to gain attention from terrorist organizations around the world,” said Freeman Musikambesa, a security analyst in Mozambique. “They hope to receive material and monetary support from other ISIS affiliates.”

Analysts say it has the hallmarks of Ansar al-Sunna, a Salafi jihadist group that has waged an insurgency against the central government of Mozambique since 2017. Nampula, together with Cabo Delgado, in the country’s north, are two of the provinces most impacted by the ongoing insurgency.

“The government is keen to pursue and develop the region’s immense natural gas wealth and other natural resources. Such attacks are meant to demonstrate that the government is not really in control and has failed to provide security to the people.”

The government of Mozambique has involved a wide range of actors in the conflict since 2017, from South African mercenaries to Russia’s Wagner Group. More recently, the United States has sought to help the government of Mozambique to end the insurgency.

Rwanda announced it was deploying a force of 1,000 to fight the insurgency, including the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) and police officers to Mozambique in 2021. A further 2,000 troops from eight Southern African Development Community (SADC) nations have also joined the conflict. This force is known as the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM).

The attack comes just days after a Catholic organization in South Africa warned that violence was growing in Mozambique following a string of beheadings allegedly by the ISIS-affiliated group.

“The indiscriminate nature of the beheadings supports this assertion—that the purpose of such attacks is to drive local populations off their land,” said Johan Viljoen, the Director of the Denis Hurley Peace Institute, in a media statement. “This is not a religious war. It is about access to mineral wealth, oil, and gas.”

Source: news week