Jihadists seize key port in gas-rich northern Mozambique

A bloody jihadist insurgency has been hindering the development of offshore gas reserves in the Cabo Delgado region since 2017.
Jihadists seized Mocimboa da Praia, a port city in the North of Mozambique rich in gas, on Wednesday 12th August, according to the local news site Moz24Horas, a military source confirmed to Agence France-Presse (AFP). Using a rocket launcher, the jihadists hit a boat in the port, according to the military source, who acknowledged that “the situation is complicated”.
The Mozambique Defence Forces (MDF) confirmed in the evening that “terrorists” had last week launched “coordinated attacks” on several villages near the port in an attempt to occupy the city. “At the moment, operations are under way to neutralize the terrorists who are using the populations of these areas as shields,” the FDS said in a statement.
The port of Mocimboa da Praia, located in the Cabo Delgado province, is about 80 km south of the Afungi Peninsula and is home to major facilities for the development of liquefied natural gas (LNG), one of the largest investments in Africa in which the French group Total is participating. The port is currently used for these gas activities, hence its importance in the region.
At the end of June, gunmen killed eight workers of a private construction company working for Total on its multi-billion dollar gas project in Cabo Delgado province. At the same time, jihadists had already attacked and temporarily occupied Mocimboa da Praia. A previous occupation of the city a few months earlier had caused a mass exodus of its inhabitants.
Since 2017, northern Mozambique has been the scene of a jihadist uprising that has claimed a thousand lives and hindered the development of the exploitation of its offshore gas reserves. Attacks on workers working on liquefied natural gas development projects have so far been rare. At least 1,300 people have already died as a result of the attacks in the region, according to the NGO The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), while UN estimates in May put the number of people displaced by the attacks at least 210,000.
In its latest report released Wednesday, ACLED writes that “insurgents and government security forces have been fighting more or less consistently in the region since the evening of August 5”. Despite the unrest in the region, Total said it would go ahead with its $23 billion gas project.