The Mozambique army says it has regained control of Palma, an important gas hub in the country, since Monday. Islamic State jihadists had raided the site on March 24 when energy company Total announced it would resume gas extraction in the area. According to a spokesman for the Mozambican army, many militants were killed during the liberation.
“Many people have died and the infrastructure has been destroyed, but the residents are safe again,” the army said. Official figures on victims are not yet available, but it is estimated that dozens of people have died. According to the government, fighting continues outside the city limits.
Gas extraction in the north is very important to the African country’s economy. There are currently several projects in progress that together are worth more than 60 billion dollars (50 billion euros), an unprecedented amount of investment for an African economy.
A source reported to the news agency on Friday Reuters that the French Total had evacuated all employees when it became known that militants were targeting the company. The army spokesman reported on Monday that all facilities of Total are currently protected. Total did not want to respond. The company’s power plant is located about 10 kilometers from Palma.
Thousands of people fled
Because of the siege, thousands of Palma residents were beaten on the run. According to relief workers, they sometimes hid for days in the woods or tried to escape by boat.
Hundreds of people also found shelter in a hotel. After two days they tried to flee by cars to the beach, where they were taken under fire. Eyewitnesses say against BBC that many people were killed in the escape attempt. The government itself sticks to seven fatalities.
A large number of people have fled to the provincial capital Pemba. There are currently thousands of refugees due to previous violence from terror groups and a deadly cyclone in 2019.
More than a thousand people were able to get out of Palma by fleeing to the beach. There was a ship waiting to take them to Pemba.