Mozambique: Fresh attacks on Palma, as Total prepares to return to LNG project

By The Africa Report
Posted on Wednesday, 24 March 2021 21:05, updated on Thursday, 25 March 2021 14:06

LNG construction site in Mozambique © Saipem

Militant groups attacked a town near where a $20bn liquefied natural gas (LNG) project is planned in northern Mozambique. It shatters hopes for oil giant Total, which had recently said it was preparing to return to the area.

“There were coordinated attacks by several groups, which hit suburbs and a nearby village. Fighting blocked the road from Palma to Afungi. Palma is just 6km from the airstrip and main gate of the Afungi [LNG] construction site”, reports Joe Hanlon, a Mozambique-focused academic.

“Initial reports are that insurgents first attacked the police station on the coastal side of Palma, and then moved into the town and the business park, where they reportedly robbed the BIM and Standard banks. Fighting was also reported near the Amarula Hotel on the northern side of the town. There are both army and police bases in Palma and there has been fighting,” writes Hanlon.

The attacks come just as Total announces it was ready to re-engage with the project, having pulled out when militants attacked on 31 December 2020.

Since 2017, an armed insurgency has been targeting Cabo Delgado Province, where most of the major gas discoveries have been made in recent years. The insurgency is led by Ansar al-Sunna – also known as Al-Shabaab – a group that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2019 and who is increasing attacks in this predominantly Muslim region.

On 12 August, the coastal town of Mocimboa da Praia temporarily fell into their hands following intense fighting against the army. This port, used by the oil companies and their subcontractors, is located 80km south of the Afungi Peninsula. It houses the facilities of the LNG project – Mozambique LNG – led by Total, which took over from Anadarko in September 2019.

More on this story as it develops.

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