An insurgent attack on a Mozambican town near a $20 billion liquefied natural gas project that Total SE is building left dozens of people dead and state infrastructure destroyed, the government said.
The attackers, who Defense Ministry spokesman Omar Saranga called terrorists, aimed to threaten the development of the gas projects, he told reporters Sunday in Maputo, the capital.
Insurgents on March 24 attacked the coastal town of Palma, a base for several companies involved in the LNG projects and located less than 8 kilometres (5 miles) from Total’s camp. It’s the nearest they’ve got so far.
The group known as al-Shabaab had attacked villages increasingly close to Total’s site in December, prompting the company to halt work and evacuate staff. The brazen seizure of Palma last week dramatically increased risks for what is Africa’s biggest private investment yet, and in one of the world’s poorest countries.
Total said March 27 it froze plans to return to work, having announced the morning of the attack that it would restart activities after the government declared a 25-kilometre perimeter surrounding the Mozambique LNG Project as a special security area. The French energy company, which bought a 26.5% stake in the development for $3.9 billion in 2019, hasn’t said when operations might resume.
About 180 people, some foreigners, who had been trapped inside a hotel in the north of the town tried to escape in a convoy late on March 26 but were ambushed. About 100 fled to a nearby beach. Saranga confirmed seven died in the attempted escape. The security forces’ actions resulted in the evacuation of hundreds of other Mozambicans and foreigners, he said.
Security forces continue to face “some pockets of resistance from sporadic terrorist attacks,” Saranga said.
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