French energy giant Total has closed its operations and pulled out all staff from a place in northern Mozambique after last week’s deadly jihadist attack in the area, security sources said on Friday.
“Overall,” a security source in Maputo told AFP, adding that “it will be difficult to persuade them to return” this year.
And a military source added: “All facilities are abandoned.
“Total made a decision to evacuate all its personnel”, after drones monitored showed that rebels were in areas “very close” to the gas plant in Afungi.
Another source confirmed that the reports were that insurgents were not far from the scene.
The Afungi Peninsula is just 10 kilometers from the city of Palma, which was attacked more than a week ago, resulting in dozens of people, including at least two foreign workers.
The brutal attack on March 24 was the latest in a series of more than 830 organized raids by Islamist militants over the past three years, killing more than 2,600 people.
Total had already evacuated some staff and stopped construction work at the end of December after a series of violent attacks near its association.
But last week’s raid is seen as the biggest escalation of the Islamist uprising that has ravaged Cabo Delgado province since 2017.
Many civilian survivors fled their homes streaming towards the heavily secured gas plant.
An estimated 15,000 people have gathered near the site, while more are still arriving and “security is being jeopardized,” said another source.
The humanitarian “situation continues to deteriorate”, the source added.
Total clearance came when the commander of the Afungi army, Chongo Vidigal, declared on Thursday that the gas project was “protected”.
“We are currently in the special area of Afungi and have never had a terrorist threat,” he said.
Total did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Most means of communication were cut after Palma’s attack began.
Thousands of troops have been deployed to Cabo Delgado, but Mozambique’s ability to fight the insurgency has long been questioned, with analysts pointing to poor training and equipment shortages.
The government’s security forces are also being strengthened by a South African private military company, the Dyck Advisory Group (DAG).
Total and its partners planned to invest $ 20 billion in the project, the largest amount ever for a project in Africa.
In February, Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne insisted that the project, which it inherited from the American energy company Anadarko, was still about to start work in 2024.
He said this had reached an agreement with Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi to establish a 25-kilometer (15-mile) safe zone around the site.
But last week, the jihadists attacked, just 10 kilometers from the association and reportedly beheaded residents and looted buildings of the latest race.
Hundreds, including many foreign workers, have been evacuated by air and sea while thousands of locals went to safety.
The UN said it had registered at least 9,100 people internally displaced by the latest violence.
The violence has rumored almost 700,000 people from their homes since October 2017.
The jihadists of Cabo Delgado have wreaked havoc across the province in order to establish a caliphate.
The rebels are affiliated with the Islamic State group, which claimed the Palma attack.