The French energy company Total has brought out about 1,000 workers from the small town of Palma in northeastern Mozambique, which has been captured by militants. Foreign Minister Armind Nukunga said the workers were being shipped from Palma to the southern city of Pemba. On demand, Total announced that the number of employees at a large liquefied natural gas project near Palma has been reduced to an absolute minimum.
Palma is located in the gas-rich province of Cabo Delgado in northeastern Mozambique. Total and US company ExxonMobil are producing liquefied natural gas in a 17 billion euro construction project. Total has already reduced the number of its employees in January due to the dangerous security situation in the province. Among those expelled are said to be foreign project workers. Their fate is still unclear as the cell phone connection in the area is not working properly.
About 100 insurgents, allegedly members of an Islamic group linked to the “Islamic State” militant group, have been besieging a small town on the border with Tanzania since Wednesday.
In a combined operation they attacked Palma from all three directions. After several days of fighting, the jihadists seem to have brought the city under their control. Troops withdrew from Palma on Saturday night, according to security officials. Activists report severe destruction.
A few deaths
A military spokesman said Sunday that dozens of people had been killed in the attack. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), an eyewitness, militants opened fire indiscriminately on civilians and residential buildings. Corpses lie in the streets. Some of the dead have been beheaded. One of the deaths was a South African, as confirmed by the government in Pretoria. As frightened residents fled to a nearby forest, employees of the companies operating the gas project took refuge in the Amarula Hotel.
The building in Cabo Delgado was badly damaged in a terrorist attack (archive image)
On Friday, the army was able to evacuate about 180 people from the hotel where they were trapped in the middle of the fighting, according to a security representative. About 80 hotel guests were to be brought to safety by truck, but the convoy was attacked. Seven people were killed, a military spokesman said Sunday. Only seven of the 17 trucks left the war zone. It is not clear what became of the people in the other vehicles. According to the South African security firm Dick Advisory Group, government-affiliated helicopters were able to bring at least 20 people to safety in Maputo.
The rest of the hotel guests were taken away by ships Saturday night, the Mozambican security representative said. However, his information could not be verified at first. A hotel employee told the AFP news agency by phone that all guests had left the building. Authorities initially did not confirm the reports.
Unruhebrowins Cabo Delcado
Palma is located mainly in the Muslim province of Kabo Delgado. Since 2017, there have been repeated brutal attacks by radical Islamist groups. The port city of Mosimpova da Priya was captured by militants in August 2020 and has been attacking villages in the region ever since. According to the United Nations, more than 2,000 people have been killed and more than 670,000 displaced in these attacks.
After a series of military interventions, Cabo Delcado’s situation has calmed down in recent months. On the day of the attack, Total announced that it would resume construction of the natural gas project, which had been suspended since the beginning of this year due to uncertain circumstances. On Saturday evening, the committee announced that work would not resume for now. According to previous plans, the plant should be operational by 2024.
kle / uh (dpa, afp, rtre, ape)