Ansar Al-Sunna (IS-Affiliates) Engaging in a Mosaic of Violence in Mozambique: Terrorists, Rebels or Both – Legal Implications and Challenges

Gus Waschefort, Jessie Phyffer, Martha M. Bradley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter explores the complex legal implications of cases where a group traditionally considered a terrorist organisation (itself a sticky concept under international law) can also be properly considered an organised armed group in an armed conflict as defined under international humanitarian law (IHL). Mozambique was reluctant to label Ansar al-Sunna (an IS affiliate) a terrorist organisation, but eventually relented, seemingly in an attempt to avoid labelling them an organised armed group to a non-international armed conflict (NIAC), thereby triggering the application of IHL. The purpose of obfuscating the true nature of Ansar al-Sunna in this conflict is to avoid the application of protections offered by international human rights law (IHRL) and IHL. This chapter delves into this issue and explores the tactics of Ansar al-Sunna in Mozambique, which are traditionally conceived as terrorist in nature. Thereafter the chapter briefly traces the history of the definition of terrorism in international law and how it is addressed in IHL, specifically within the law of non-international armed conflict. In the fourth part, the chapter explores Mozambique’s response to Ansar al-Sunna and how labelling the insurgents ‘terrorists’ can influence political responses such as sanctions and intelligence sharing. Ultimately, the chapter concludes that whether or not ‘terrorist’, where a NIAC is raging, IHL is the proper legal framework that must apply even where terror tactics are employed. The benefit of approaching Ansar al-Sunna as both a terrorist organisation and an organised armed group is that the legal protections offered by both IHL and IHRL can and do apply.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMozambique’s Cabo Delgado Conflict
Subtitle of host publicationInternational Humanitarian Law and Regional Security
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781040011638
ISBN (Print)9781032329895
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Ansar Al-Sunna (IS-Affiliates) Engaging in a Mosaic of Violence in Mozambique: Terrorists, Rebels or Both – Legal Implications and Challenges'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this