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Total suspends construction at Mozambique LNG as fighting reaches project perimeter

Total has suspended all construction work at its LNG project on the Afungi peninsula in Cabo Delgado following a spate of violent incidents close to the site

Total has suspended all construction work at its LNG project on the Afungi peninsula in Cabo Delgado, following a spate of violent incidents close to the LNG site, related to the insurgency in the province.

The latest incident took place on 1 January, with an exchange of fire between government troops and suspected members of the insurgency in Quitunda, the village built by the Total-led LNG project to resettle local people displaced by the project.

Quitunda is situated within the LNG project’s concession area, but just outside the fence around the project site itself.

Details on the incident in Quitunda are scarce, but Bloomberg reported that Mozambique’s security forces fought off an attack by “fighters from a group aligned with Islamic State” late on Friday, 1 January and which lasted into early Saturday.

A photograph and video seen by Zitamar News allegedly show a resettlement house in Quitunda with bullet holes resulting from a shoot-out there on the night of 1-2 January.

The incident follows other insurgent attacks in recent days, including on 29 December on the village of Monjane (also known as Mondlane), 5km south of the Afungi project fence, and the village of Olumbi, 14km from the project perimeter. On 24 December, government forces reportedly repelled an attack on the village of Mute, further south but still within the district of Palma.

Total’s response means operations have been cut back to a bare minimum of security and maintenance — as it did in April this year due to an outbreak of covid-19 at Afungi. On that occasion, however, it kept workers quarantined on site.

This week, by contrast, staff and contractors have been being evacuated by air from the Afungi airstrip — which Zitamar understands has not been targeted by insurgent activity, contrary to some reports.

Total said in a statement it is “following the development of the security situation in northern Mozambique with the greatest attention, in conjunction with the Mozambican authorities.”

According to Zitamar sources, high level consultations between Total leadership and the government are ongoing to determine further steps regarding the security situation within the LNG perimeter.

This article was produced by Zitamar and Mediafax under the Cabo Ligado project, in collaboration with ACLED and with support from Crisis Group. The contents of the article are the sole responsibility of Zitamar News.