MAPUTO — A natural gas project being developed by French energy major Total in northern Mozambique is beyond the reach of militants, a Mozambique army spokesman was quoted as saying in a radio report, in the wake of a deadly insurgent attack nearby.
Authorities have confirmed dozens of deaths in the assault by Islamic State-linked insurgents that began last week in the coastal town of Palma, in a district near gas projects worth billions of dollars meant to transform Mozambique’s economy.
The situation around Palma is still highly volatile, with insurgents staging attacks on two security posts south of the town on Thursday, a source involved in providing support for humanitarian organisations on the ground told Reuters.
“It is protected… At no time was its integrity at stake,” Radio Mozambique quoted army spokesman Chongo Vidigal as saying about Total’s project on the Afungi Peninsula near Palma.
Radio Mozambique added in its report published late on Thursday that the area around the Total project was being patrolled day and night to repel any threat.
Total, which last week called off a planned resumption of construction at the $20 billion development due to the violence, told Reuters it had no immediate comment. Mozambique’s defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Aid groups believe the attack displaced tens of thousands of people, many of whom fled to safety in dense forest areas nearby or by boat.
Reuters has not been able to independently verify the accounts from Palma. Most means of communication were cut off after the attack began on March 24.
Islamist insurgents have been increasingly active in the surrounding province of Cabo Delgado since 2017, although it is unclear whether they have a unified aim or what specifically they are fighting for.
At least 9,150 people have arrived in other districts of Cabo Delgado since the attack began, with thousands more believed displaced within the Palma district, the United Nations said on Friday.
“The new wave of displacement has uprooted many people who had fled their places of origin due to the conflict in other parts of Cabo Delgado and had been seeking shelter in Palma,” it said, adding the majority of those displaced were being accommodated by host families.
Total’s project is among ones worth a combined $60 billion that would reshape the economy of the southern African country. Mozambique’s gross domestic product was around $15 billion in 2019, according to World Bank data.
*Manuel Mucari, Emma Rumney, Wendell Roelf, David Lewis, Catarina Demony & Benjamin Mallet; Alexander Winning; Editing: Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo, William Maclean & Hugh Lawson – Reuters