NDF unmoved by ISIS threat

Alarm bells as terrorist group moves into SADC

22 October 2019 | International

The threat and presence of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in northern Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo has not placed the Namibia Defence Force on tenterhooks, with the country's last line of defence saying they are ready for any threat that could potentially be posed by the insurgency group.

However, South African military analyst Helmoed-Römer Heitman says this is cause for concern, particularly for the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

According to him, individual ISIS members may have returned into the region, bringing with them the know-how that could pose a threat to safety and security in the region.

Just five months ago, ISIS was involved in an attack in Mozambique according to The Guardian.

“The soldiers of the caliphate were able to repulse an attack by the crusader Mozambican army … They clashed with them with a variety of weapons, killing and wounding a number of them. The mujahideen captured weapons, ammunition and rockets as spoils,” a statement said, according to SITE Intelligence, a company that monitors extremist activity.

“It is highly unlikely that an airplane load of ISIS members flew into either country, but it is quite possible that individual ISIS members have returned to central and southern Africa from Iraq or Syria, bringing with them experience, skills, techniques and tactics, as seems to have happened to an extent in Somalia,” military website DefenceWeb quoted him as saying.

Accordingly to Heitman, there was potential for worry close to home. According there is no reason at all to believe that South African patrols, bases or ships will be immune from attack using those skills, tactics and techniques.

According to him, ISIS guerrillas have in the past effectively used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for reconnaissance and command and control, as in Syria as well as small, commercial UAVs to carry out air attacks. Little is known about the NDF's military prowess in terms of its firepower as its website does not show what weapons it has on hand to fight ISIS. The South African National Defence Force's ability to contain a potential ISIS threat has been questioned by Heitman.

“There is no reason at all to believe that South African patrols, bases or ships will be immune from attack using those skills, tactics and techniques,” said Heitman.

The NDF has in the recent past deployed its Casspir military vehicles which Heitman said would not stand the test of time.

“A Casspir would cave in like a tissue box; and a Mamba would probably be disassembled and tossed to the side of the road,” he said of military vehicles in popular use.

Defence ministry spokesperson Petrus Shilumbu expressed confidence in the NDF's ability to protect the country, should a potential threat loom. According to him, the NDF had always kept any potential for insurgency at bay.

“The NDF, as the agency of the government responsible for defence of the territorial integrity of Namibia, has always lived up to its mandate since its inception. It is however not in its nature to share with everyone its state of readiness for any threat,” said Shilumbu.

Police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga in 2015 expressed concern at the prospect of Namibians joining and fighting for the terrorist group.

“Nations need to sensitise their citizens to refrain from joining dead wars,” he was quoted as saying by New Era at the time.

Similarly, Shilumbu added the prospect of Namibians favouring ISIS when asked about the potential threat of the terrorist group existing in the region.

“Journalists, just like any other persons may as well work or be sympathetic to terrorist organisations,” Shilumbu said.