Intelligence Analysis: Reported Terrorist Attack on Tanzanian Village of Kiwengulo on Friday

    Analyst: Evarist Chahali

    What happened?

    According to World News 2021 Telegram channel,

    A local source confirmed that an attack attributed to IS militants (ISCAP) targeted the village of Kiwengulo in Nanyamba district (in Tanzania) on Friday 10/12/2021.
    It led to the death of a number of people and the burning of a number of houses.

    However, the first report about the attack came from this tweet below almost 8 hours earlier

    Translated from Swahili: "Alshabab have attacked Kiwengulo village on Tanzania-Mozambique border. They have killed 4 people and torched several houses. It was last night."

    Any confirmation?

    None so far, and restrictions on access to information put in place by Tanzanian authorities since the conflict began makes it unlikely to get any confirmation. These restrictions have led to an increasing reliance by the media on Mozambican sources that have contacts in Tanzania rather than drawing directly from Tanzanian sources for news of insurgent action in Tanzania.

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    Related incidents?

    On 1 October, 12 insurgents entered the same village of Kiwengulo, just across the Rovuma from western Palma district. The insurgents looted food supplies, killing a civilian woman who identified one of the insurgents as being from the area. Tanzanian security forces were not able to apprehend the insurgents.

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    Any significance of the attacks?

    Tanzania showed its military mighty on December 9 Independence Day, which prompted a top local comedian, Emmanuel Mgaya aka "Masanja Mkandamizaji" to make a joke to President Samia Suluhu Hassan "to ask her Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, who was in attendance, for a war to test otherwise idle Tanzania People's Defence Forces' weaponry."

    Earlier, a prominent Tanzania journalist, Eric Kabendera, commended the East African nation for building what he described as "the most modern army since independence."

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    On November 16, President Suluhu claimed that peace has been restored along the border with Mozambique.

    Risk advisory

    Tanzania is vulnerable to the expansion of the insurgency. There exists a strong connection between the East African nation with the insurgents. In February 2019, researcher Eric Morier-Genoud noted that

    Much has been said about links to Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. But most connections are with Tanzania.
    Mozambican Islamic clerics have trained in Tanzania for more than a century and exchanges have taken place for longer, among religious communities on both sides of the border. So it’s unsurprising that the Mozambican “al-Shabaab” connected with like-minded Muslims in Tanzania in the 2010s.
    After Tanzanian radicals became violent and the state responded forcefully against them after 2015, and particularly strongly in early 2017, some of them took refuge with the Mozambican “al-Shabaab”. This has reinforced and partially internationalized the insurgency.

    According to the International Crisis Group, Tanzanian authorities report observing the return of significant numbers of their nationals who have served in militant groups abroad.

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    Over the last few years, the country had clamped down on domestic jihadist networks connected to Al-Shabaab in Somalia.

    Some of those youth fled the crackdowns, especially after 2017, and moved to the ADF or Mozambique’s al-Shabab, where they have been influenced by ISIS propaganda. Following foreign military intervention in Cabo Delgado, security sources say, many of these Kenyan and Tanzanian fighters, the latter of whom have occupied senior positions in al-Shabab, are retreating home.
    These fighters’ return via Tanzania has coincided with other significant developments. In August, a lone shooter embarked on a killing spree near the French embassy in the main city of Dar es Salaam. Tanzanian officials are close-mouthed about his origins. Somali intelligence sources, however, say the man was a former member of Somalia’s Al-Shabaab who travelled to Mozambique in 2020 to join militants there.
    Sources close to the ADF, meanwhile, say the arrested Middle Eastern man mentioned above, prior to crossing into the DRC, had also stopped for nearly two weeks in August in the Tanzanian town of Kigoma, where he may have provided training to East African nationals. Immigration data, seen by Crisis Group, proves his presence there, although Crisis Group has not been able to independently confirm he provided training.

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    Furthermore, a recent report indicated that

    local sources in Nangade district in Mozambique were raising the alarm about the state of the cordon in their area of Cabo Delgado even before the Niassa attacks. Nangade is defended largely by Tanzanian troops deployed as part of SAMIM, and, after a series of attacks in the district, locals began to lose confidence in the Tanzanian forces. Their perceived lack of response to insurgent actions, especially their slow reaction to the 19 November attack on Chacamba, just 13 kilometers away from their base in Nangade town, has caused frustration. According to one, “sometimes [Tanzanian soldiers] even seem complicit” in insurgent attacks. The distrust does not apply to SAMIM as a whole -- the small contingent of Basotho soldiers also deployed in the district is held in comparatively high regard. Nangade civilians had expressed concern before the Niassa attacks that Tanzanian forces would not prevent insurgents from moving through Nangade district to points west.

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    With the ongoing terror-related charges against Freeman Mbowe, major opposition party Chadema's chairman,  sentiments that the  Tanzanian ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi's government has been using terrorism as a tool for political repression against the opposition have been gaining prominency. Calls have been made to the government to focus on "actual terrorists" instead of "imaginary" ones as depicted on the cartoon below.

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    Translated from Swahili: "How nations are fighting against terrorism" (a cartoon of the Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan is first on the left, shooting at an effigy while others are shooting at "terrorists")

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    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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