Total stops working after Palma attacks


A woman cries as she waits for her son to arrive in Pemba on April 1, 2021, on the boat of evacuees from the coast of Palma.

Attacks by Islamist militants have killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands of people in northern Mozambique

French energy giant Total has halted operations at a site exploring a major gas field in northern Mozambique weeks after Islamist militants attacked a nearby town.

The company said it was withdrawing all its employees due to the “advanced” security situation.

Dozens were killed in a raid in March on the town of Palma.

The $ 20 billion Total gas liquefaction plant (£ 14.6 billion) is the largest foreign investment in Africa.

Its site is located in Avongi, near Palma, which has been under repeated attacks by militants linked to the Islamic State (ISIS).

During the March 24 attack, contract workers and locals sought refuge at the Amarula Palma Hotel and later recounted their horrific experiences.

The four-year-old rebellion in the Cabo Delgado region has killed more than 2,500 people and displaced 700,000.

The The UN World Food Program said last week The March attack caused tens of thousands of people to flee the area – further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

Many lack adequate shelter, the agency says, and child malnutrition is on the rise.

Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi pledged to restore peace to the troubled province of Cabo Delgado.

On Monday, Total said it “expresses its solidarity” with the government and called on the authorities to restore security.

BBC Africa correspondent Catherine Byaruhanga says the cessation of operations is a major blow to Mozambique.

She adds that there are now growing concerns about whether international companies can operate in Cabo Delgado.

Insecurity has also affected local merchants – the country’s main business association said SMEs lost $ 90 (£ 64 million).

Who are the rebels?

They are mainly Muslims from the coastal region of Cabo Delgado, who have been recruited by local fundamentalist preachers with a socialist message – that Sharia, or Islamic law, will bring about equality and everyone will share the wealth of resources to come, according to Mozambican analyst Joseph Hanlon.

The first attack in the region was in 2017 on Mocimboa da Praia, the only city and port in this northern region.

He added that the preachers’ message and promise to provide jobs and money prompted many young men to join the insurgency and garnered the support of local communities.

The consensus is that the insurgency began locally and that foreign intervention and ISIS came later. Dr Hanlon said the disagreement is over how important that is.

Map of Mozambique

Map of Mozambique

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