Bonomade Machude Omar, aka Ibn Omar Mozambique’s most wanted man and head of terrorist group fighting the state since October 2017 has been killed, according to a Friday communique from the General Staff of Mozambique’s Armed Forces.
Ibn Omar was killed on 22 August in the Macomia district by Mozambican Armed Forces.
The General Staff released a picture of a person who they said it is Bonomade Machude Omar. Adding that there were others who were killed alongside Ibn Omar but they were yet to be identified. A week earlier, two top insurgents, one of them Bonomade’s deputy and chief of operations, were killed, according to the communique.
President Filipe Nyusi told journalists that Ibn Omar had been killed, “we’ve said what needs to be said, that sometimes needs to be understood, that terrorism does not end. We can’t even say that it’s over” he added.
Although there are still a few lingering questions on whether the picture the General Staff of Mozambique’s Armed Forces released is that of Ibn Omar, if confirmed beyond any doubt, his death is a significant victory for the Mozambican authorities and their bilateral and regional coalition fighting terrorism in Cabo Delgado.
The irony is that Ibn Omar and other leaders of the insurgency died in Macomia district, where the all extremism saga started in the early 2000’s. Even though, Mocímboa da Praia is the place from where they launched their armed crusade against the Mozambican state, Mucojo and Quiterajo are the places of the insurgency’s original sin.
Mozambique Insights security sources say that Ibn Omar’s downfall had to do with the fact that he had led an ambush on a military convoy transporting the Chief of the General Staff, Joaquim Mangrasse, resulting in the death of nine soldiers – the ambush suggests that the insurgents might have been tipped off by someone or people within the armed forces of Mangrasse’s presence, and that he might have been their target.
Furthermore, contrary to previous situations when the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) forces stayed away from combat, this time they were involved in the fighting that resulted in Ibn Omar’s death.
Sources say that SAMIM’s involvement, especially that of South African Defence Force troops, comes after heavy criticism from Maputo.
It is not clear what is coming next. For the time being, the government has urged people to be cautious, arguing rightly that the death of Ibn Omar does not entail the end of the insurgency, and that it is going to take some time before Cabo Delgado can be declared free of the insurgency.
One thing that must be considered is that Ibn Omar did not appear out of nowhere to mobilise, recruit, train youths, arm them and embark on attacks against the state. There is a likely to be a broader and complex support structure that is keeping the insurgency afloat, starting from financial backers to logistics personnel, from a network of spies to recruiters, among others.
Consequently, the death of Ibn Omar raises more questions than there are reasons for celebration.
Some security experts raise eyebrows questioning why high-ranked insurgents are being killed and not captured. A captured high-ranking insurgent could provide crucial information regarding the roots and links of the various possible support networks.
Allah Akbar (Arabic for God is Great) are said to have been Ibn Omar’s last words as his life was ebbing away, taking whatever secrets he had to his grave.
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