"Total has gone.. all the facilities are abandoned. Total made a decision to evacuate all of its staff," security and military sources say of the company's Afungi natural gas project site in restive northern Cabo Delgado province.

A woman is comforted by friends after a ship carrying people fleeing an attack claimed by insurgents on the town of Palma, docks in Pemba, Mozambique, on April 1, 2021.
A woman is comforted by friends after a ship carrying people fleeing an attack claimed by insurgents on the town of Palma, docks in Pemba, Mozambique, on April 1, 2021. (Reuters)

French energy giant Total has shut its operations and withdrawn all staff from a site in northern Mozambique following last week's deadly militant attack in the area, security sources said.

"Total has gone," a security source in Maputo told AFP news agency, while a military source said separately that "all the facilities are abandoned. Total made a decision to evacuate all of its staff."

The company pulled all its staff and shut its Afungi natural gas project site amid ongoing clashes between Daesh-linked insurgents and the Mozambican military, sources with direct knowledge of the Afungi site's operations told Reuters news agency.

Total, which last week called off a planned resumption of construction at the $20 billion development due to the violence, declined immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.

The situation around Palma is still highly volatile, with insurgents staging attacks on two security posts south of the town on Thursday, a source involved in providing support for humanitarian organisations on the ground told Reuters.

Authorities have confirmed dozens of deaths in the assault by the insurgents that began last week in the coastal town of Palma, in a district near gas projects worth billions of dollars meant to transform Mozambique's economy.

READ MORE: Survivors from Mozambique’s Daesh siege evacuated

Mozambique's natural gas-rich port town, Palma, was attacked last week by Al Shabab, a group, which is different from the Somali group, and is allegedly linked to Daesh.
Mozambique's natural gas-rich port town, Palma, was attacked last week by Al Shabab, a group, which is different from the Somali group, and is allegedly linked to Daesh. (Fatih Uzun / TRTWorld)

Army's assurance to Total

Earlier on Friday, a Mozambique army spokesman was quoted as saying in a radio report that the Total project is beyond the reach of militants.

"It is protected... At no time was its integrity at stake," Radio Mozambique quoted army spokesman Chongo Vidigal as saying about Total's project on the Afungi Peninsula near Palma.

Radio Mozambique added in its report published late on Thursday that the area around the Total project was being patrolled day and night to repel any threat.

Mozambique's Defence Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Reuters has not been able to independently verify the accounts from Palma. Most means of communication were cut off after the attack began on March 24.

Total's project is among ones worth a combined $60 billion that would reshape the economy of the southern African country. Mozambique's gross domestic product was around $15 billion in 2019, according to World Bank data.

Insurgents have been increasingly active in the surrounding province of Cabo Delgado since 2017, although it is unclear whether they have a unified aim or what specifically they are fighting for.

READ MORE: Thousands find refuge after attack in Mozambique's Palma town

Humanitarian crisis

More than 900,000 people in Mozambique now require food aid because of the crisis in the northern part of the country, according to the UN World Food Program.

"It is a fast-evolving conflict situation and large numbers of people are fleeing through the bush, with nothing, nothing by the clothes on their backs," Lola Castro, the regional director for WFP told The Associated Press. 

"This humanitarian crisis is not going away, it’s increasing."

At least 9,150 people have arrived in other districts of Cabo Delgado since the attack began, with thousands more believed displaced within the Palma district, the United Nations said on Friday.

"The new wave of displacement has uprooted many people who had fled their places of origin due to the conflict in other parts of Cabo Delgado and had been seeking shelter in Palma," it said, adding the majority of those displaced were being accommodated by host families.

READ MORE: What you need to know about Mozambique’s growing insurgency

Source: TRTWorld and agencies