Militant group Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack in northern Mozambique south of gas projects worth $60 billion under development by Exxon Mobil and Total among others.
Insurgents attacked Mocimboa da Praia town on Monday, briefly occupying areas and its army barracks before being pushed out, Mozambique authorities and security analysts said.
Islamic State claimed the attack through its Amaq news agency, which said dozens of soldiers and police officers were killed or injured. Government has not provided a figure of dead or injured.
“Military sources told Amaq Islamic State fighters attacked five army and police barracks in the town,” the agency said, adding weapons, ammunition and other equipment were also seized.
Government spokesman Filimao Suaze said the retreating attackers left a “trail of destruction and dead bodies” and security was beefed up in the area.
While Islamic State claimed a spate of recent attacks in northern province Cabo Delgado, home to the gas developments following one of the biggest gas finds in a decade off its coast, Tuesday’s claim of responsibility is the first matched by official confirmation of an attack.
Government does not acknowledge the claims.
Mocimboa da Praia, south of the gas projects, previously served as the main airport for international workers on the developments and its port is used for cargo deliveries.
NGOs say government must do more to protect poor civilians in the area and step up transparency.
“This violent escalation in Mocimboa da Praia is the culmination of a tragic failure by the Mozambican government to protect people in this volatile area,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, rights group Amnesty’s deputy director for east and southern Africa.
“For three years, armed groups have attacked villagers around Cabo Delgado, causing untold human suffering without being held accountable.”
The organisation said 350 people died since 2017, but some estimates are higher. More than 900 people were reported killed, non-government body the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, said.