The elite Green Berets have been deployed to help defeat Islamic State insurgents accused of beheading children as young as 11 in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique.
US Army Special Forces soldiers are to train Mozambican marines for the next two months to counter the rapidly escalating insurgency from ISIS-linked terrorist group al-Shabab.
It comes after the US officially listed the group as a foreign terrorist organisation last week because of its links to ISIS, who it pledged allegiance to in 2018 and who claimed its first attack in June 2019.
Mozambique, in southern Africa, represents the worrying spread of Islamic insurgency on the continent. Other nations facing ISIS-linked violence include Somalia, Nigeria, Niger, Mali, and Libya.
The deployment of the Green Berets is "to prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism," the US Embassy in Maputo, Mozambique's capital, said, The Times reported.
According to an Insider report last month, the Green Berets are called on to deploy worldwide, build lasting relationships with local groups friendly towards the United States, and then teach those groups how to kill effectively. The SF soldiers then begin going on missions with the locals and fight side-by-side.
The situation in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, which began in 2017, became even more urgent last year, with up to 3,500 fighters regularly engaging with the military to capture key towns.
At least 2,000 civilians have been killed, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project and 670,000 have been displaced, Save the Children added. Around a million people are also in need of food aid, the UN estimated.
'They took my eldest son and beheaded him'
Children as young as 11 years old have been executed, according to Save the Children, that has spoken to displaced families that have described horrific executions by the Islamic insurgents.
One mother, Elsa, 28, whose name has been changed, told Save the Children: "That night our village was attacked and houses were burned. When it all started, I was at home with my four children.
"We tried to escape to the woods, but they took my eldest son and beheaded him. We couldn't do anything because we would be killed too."
Impoverished Mozambique, in southern Africa, had been relying on foreign mercenaries, mainly from South Africa, who have also been accused of human rights abuses.
An Amnesty International report found that both sides committed war crimes, with government forces responsible for abuses against civilians, something it has denied.
Al-Shabab, not to be confused with the Somalian al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group of a similar name, means The Youth in Arabic.
It has found ready recruits among the unemployed young people from the area, al-Jazeera reported.
Although a ruby deposit and gas field were discovered in Cabo Delgado in 2009 and 2010, creating dreams of a better life for locals, these were soon undermined by violence and extreme flooding, the BBC noted.
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MOZAMBIQUE has formally asked the European Union (EU) for support to battle Islamist militants in its gas-rich northern province of Cabo Delgado.
It has requested support in logistics and specialised training for its soldiers.
The southern African nation has been fighting the insurgents for three years with little success. At least 1,500 people have been killed and an estimated 250,000 have fled their homes.
The government has allegedly lost control of three coastal districts.
Foreign Affairs Minister Veronica Macamo has written to Brussels requesting the support after the EU expressed its willingness to assist.
In the letter, Ms Macamo also asked for assistance in development programmes as a way of reducing the vulnerability of the locals, mainly young people, to the allure of joining the insurgents.
Mozambique's National Petroleum Institute expects Exxon Mobil 's final investment decision on a $30 billion gas project in the north of the country in 2021, it said on Wednesday, though the U.S. company dismissed this as speculation.
"The final investment decision of the Rovuma LNG project has been postponed to, in principle, next year," the institute's Chairman Carlos Zacarias told journalists, referring to the Exxon-led project in the gas-rich province of Cabo Delgado.
However, an Exxon spokesman referred to the comments as "third-party speculation", adding that "Rovuma LNG is a complex project that will take several years to develop".
He said the decision would not be made this year but declined to comment on when it would.
The oil giant's decision on the project, which had been expected this year, was postponed in March as the coronavirus outbreak and an oil price slump forced companies to delay projects and cut spending.
Exxon did not say when it planned to make a call on the project.
Other big oil companies, including France's Total and Italy's Eni, are also involved in projects in the region, home to one of the biggest gas finds in a decade.
The projects have the potential to transform the economy of Mozambique, one of the world's least developed nations. But apart from the coronavirus, the projects are complicated by militant Islamists in the province with links to Islamic State.