Maputo – The perpetration of coordinated attacks on the oil industry, including the beheading of one worker, indicate a shift in the mode of operation of an insurgent group in Mozambique from hit-and-run nightly attacks on villages to devastating attacks on convoys in broad daylight.
Recently, the Islamist group known as Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa (ASWJ), unleashed its fighters to carry out attacks on members of the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and on villages on the road between Mocimboa da Praia and the Afungi peninsula, the company’s liquefied natural gas construction site, in the Cabo Delgado Province.
The attacks occurred approximately 20 kilometres from the facility.
The first involved a convoy where six contract personnel sustained injuries. The second attack, which involved the firm Gabriel Couto, contracted to construct an airstrip for the Anadarko project, resulted in one fatality.
He was beheaded.
The think-tank, Armed Conflict Location and Events Dataset (ACLED), noted the insurgents’ terror tactics had shifted from night assaults on villages to attacks on convoys in the afternoon.
“And in their tactics, they have placed themselves as a strategic threat to the development goals of the country by targeting the billion-dollar international natural gas exploration projects ongoing in the region,” ACLED stated after the attacks.
According to experts, it is by no coincidence that the upsurge in violence comes at a time Mozambique is on the verge of an economic boom with the discovery of massive oil and gas finds in the Southern African country in recent years.
The rampage is believed to be partly in reaction to the awarding of a US$750 million contract for protecting gas fields to a private security consortium. A United States private security company and a Mozambique company linked to government intelligence secured the contract.
Eric Morier-Genoud, a lecturer in African history, wrote that there were economic issues at play.
“In the past few years, massive oil and gas reserves have been discovered.
These resources are set to lead to the development of a multi-billion-dollar industry in Cabo Delgado, and a rosier future for Mozambique’s economy as a whole,” Morier-Genoud stated.
The attacks have drawn comparisons with the militancy in the Delta region of Nigeria where radicals have over the years carried out attacks on oil facilities in response to allege collusion by government and international companies to exploit resources, with communities not benefitting.
Anadarko, the US-headquartered company, said the security and well-being of its employees were always a top priority hence the construction site remained on lockdown.
The firm could not be drawn to discuss specific security measures.
“We also remain in close contact with Government authorities to ensure appropriate measures are in place to protect our workforce. Until we have a full picture of yesterday's events, it would be premature to comment further,” the company stated.
Basilio Monteiro, Mozambican Interior Minister, announced the deployment Defence and Security Forces units to protect companies from further attacks.
“We are convinced that we will consolidate the security environment,” he said.
Forces have previously been accused of human rights violations in operations to address the terror.
Human Rights Watch said security forces were intimidating, detaining, and prosecuting journalists covering the fighting against an armed Islamist group.
“The Mozambican government’s actions to silence the media in Cabo Delgado obstruct public scrutiny of the military operations and alleged abuses,” said Dewa Mavhinga, HRW Southern Africa director.
The violence has left an estimated 150 people dead and scores kidnapped in recent months. Villages have been looted and burnt down. – CAJ News