MAPUTO, 25 March 2021 – Islamist militants have been blamed for Wednesday’s attack close to a multi-billion-dollar gas project in the northern Mozambican town of Palma.
Government troops regained control of the town early Thursday after hours of gun battles.
The attack occurred near a project managed by the French oil giant, Total.
Mozambique’s gas and oil investments in the area are estimated to be worth $128 billion.
Total recently announced that its workers were returning to the site to resume work at the gas project located on the Afungi peninsula.
The French oil giant stopped construction on the project in December 2020, citing security concerns.
The temporary closure followed a similar attack that was staged by Islamist militants on a nearby town.
Palma is crucial for the project, with Total relying heavily on it as a transit point for goods and workers.
A spokesperson for Mozambique’s ministry of defense, Omar Saranga, said Thursday that Maputo is yet to ascertain the number of casualties because the area is unreachable by phone.
The attackers appeared to be on a looting operation, targeting banks, shops, a hotel, and seeking to steal weapons from the barracks of the local riot police.
Residents fled from their homes and neighborhoods as the assailants raided Palma, taking shelter in a nearby forest, according to one report in Carta de Mozambique.
No fewer than 2,000 people have been killed in the Islamist insurgency in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
About 600,000 people have been internally displaced by the conflict which began in 2017.
The United Nations recently appealed for $254 million to provide humanitarian assistance to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons.
The jihadists are infamous for beheading civilians and on a few occasions, they have managed to capture and briefly hold control of towns before ceding them under attack by Mozambican forces.
Earlier this month, the US embassy in Maputo confirmed that American special forces were going to train Mozambican forces on how to counter Islamic fundamentalism.