French energy giant Total announced Monday that it is suspending its $20 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Mozambique following recent militant attacks in resource-rich northern Cabo Delgado province.
“Considering the evolution of the security situation in the north of Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique, Total confirms the withdrawal of all Mozambique liquefied natural gas project personnel from the Afungi site,” the company said in a statement.
The company said the situation has led it as the operator of the Mozambique LNG project to declare force majeure, which means it will halt contractual obligations due to unforeseeable circumstances caused by attacks.
In late March, an armed militant group believed to be affiliated with the Daesh/ISIS terrorist group attacked the coastal town of Palma in Cabo Delgado near the border with Tanzania, killing dozens and injuring scores of others.
The northern province, which is rich in natural gas and has attracted companies such as Total to extract LNG from offshore sites in the Indian Ocean, has been insecure for nearly four years.
An armed group locally known as al-Shabaab but with no established links to the armed militant group in Somalia has wreaked havoc in northern Mozambique since late 2017, killing hundreds, displacing communities and capturing towns.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional block of 16 countries, deployed a mission to Mozambique this month, reaffirming its commitment to bring lasting peace and security to the southern African country currently fighting terrorists.
Earlier this month, the Mozambican army said it had regained total control of Palma, which had been overrun by militants for almost a week.
“Total expresses its solidarity with the government and people of Mozambique and wishes that the actions carried out by the government of Mozambique and its regional and international partners will enable the restoration of security and stability in Cabo Delgado province in a sustained manner,” the company said in its statement.
BBC Reports They are primarily Muslims from the coastal zone of Cabo Delgado, recruited by local fundamentalist preachers with a socialist message – that Sharia, or Islamic law, would bring equality and everyone would share in the coming resource wealth, according to Mozambique analyst Joseph Hanlon.
The first attack in the region was in 2017 on Mocimboa da Praia, the only city and port in this northern zone.
The preachers’ message and the promise of jobs and money led many young men to join the insurgency, and it gained support in local communities, he added.
The consensus is that the insurgency started locally and that foreign and IS involvement came later. The disagreement is over how important that is, said Dr Hanlon.