Mozambican army accused of abondoning people while protecting Western multibillion gas projects

Maputo – A natural gas project being developed by French energy major Total in northern Mozambique is beyond the reach of militants, a Mozambique army spokesperson was quoted as saying in a radio report following 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.

Military operations were still going on around Palma on Wednesday.

“It is protected… at no time was its integrity at stake,” Radio Mozambique quoted army spokesperson Chongo Vidigal as saying about Total’s project on the Afungi Peninsula, near Palma, where Islamic State-linked insurgents began the highly organised raid last week.

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 told Reuters it had no immediate comment. Mozambique’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Total said last week it was calling off a planned resumption of construction at its $20 billion development following the attack.

Aid groups believe the attack displaced tens of thousands of people, many of whom fled to safety in dense forest 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.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday South Africa was working hard to secure the safety of South Africans in Pemba and in Palma

“We have already attended to the issue of evacuating those South Africans who are stranded in Mozambique,” he said during a wreath-laying ceremony for the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Ramaphosa was referring to the repatriation of six South Africans and the body of fellow citizen Adrian Nel, who was killed by insurgents.

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.

Total’s project is among ones worth a combined $60 billion that are intended to transform the economy of the poor southern African country. Mozambique’s gross domestic product was around $15 billion in 2019, according to World Bank data.