You might think the Islamic State is dead. In fact, its newest branch is carving out a foothold in southern Africa—and extracting a huge price in lives and livelihoods along the way. In April, French oil giant TotalEnergies pulled out of Mozambique, declaring force majeure on a $20 billion liquified natural gas project, the largest private investment in Africa. The company withdrew its staff from a project site in the country’s far northern Cabo Delgado province after Islamic State-affiliated insurgents overran a nearby town in March.
The human toll dwarfs even this steep financial cost. The violence in Mozambique since 2017 has killed more than 2,500 civilians. The number of internally displaced people jumped tenfold from 70,000 people in 2020 to 700,000 people in 2021 and continues to rise. The conflict has turned increasingly brutal, with frequent reports of beheadings and rape.