Suspected insurgents attack Mozambique key town: security sources

Maputo (AFP) –


Unidentified assailants on Wednesday attacked the northern Mozambican town of Palma, the hub of a huge gas exploration project, security sources said, as construction work was due to resume on the scheme.

Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province has since 2017 been the target of attacks by a shadowy jihadist group, raiding villages and towns in a bid to establish an Islamic caliphate.

The violence has rocked the development of Africa's largest liquified natural gas project off the Afungi peninsula, led by French oil giant Total.

The latest attack came as Total announced Wednesday that it would "progressively resume" construction at the site "following the implementation of additional site security measures."

A security source based in Mozambique's capital Maputo told AFP that an attack on Palma was "in progress".

The source, who did not wish to be named, said it was not yet known whether the assailants were jihadists.

A second anonymous security source in the provincial capital Pemba confirmed the assault and said troops were fighting "insurgents."

Cabo Delgado's jihadists, known locally as Al-Shabab, are affiliated to the so-called Islamic State group.

The insurgency has killed at least 2,600 people, half of them civilians, according to the US-based data collecting agency Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED).

Nearly 700,000 have been uprooted by the violence, placing severe pressure on humanitarian support in the region.

Total itself evacuated some staff in January after jihadists launched a series of attacks just kilometres (miles) from the LNG site.