Islamist militants have attacked and occupied a northern Mozambican village in their closest raid yet to a giant gas project, military sources told AFP on Tuesday.
Jihadists launch an assault late on Monday on the village of Mute, located about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the Afungi peninsula — the centre of a multibillion-dollar scheme to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Cabo Delgado province.
The attackers targeted government soldiers in the village and torched homes.
“After the terrorists attacked our position, reinforcements were sent to repel the attack,” said an unnamed senior military source based in Palma, the provincial capital.
“At this point the clashes on the ground continue,” the source said early on Tuesday.
Mute lies in a buffer zone between the gas project and the jihadist-controlled port of Mocimboa da Praia.
The attack has raised concerns about security at the Afungi peninsula, where the French energy major Total and the United States’ Exxon Mobil are among the investors, the military source said.
According to another military source, air force reinforcements from a private military contractor, Dyck Advisory Group, have been deployed from Pemba to shore up government troops seeking to retake Mute.
A police spokesman in Cabo Delgado did not return calls seeking comment.
Jihadists have stepped up attacks in recent months in a declared campaign to create a caliphate in the gas-rich region.
Violence has claimed more than 2,300 lives since October 2017, according to the US based NGO Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, while the government says at least 500,000 people have fled their homes.