Islamic State strikes Macomia, Mozambique amid gas project push

In a bold strike, Islamic State-linked insurgents targeted Macomia, Mozambique, signalling a resurgence in violence amidst government efforts to revive a $20 billion gas project. Repelled after 45 minutes, the attack underscores escalating unrest since December’s assaults. Situated strategically along key routes, Macomia’s significance intensifies as neighbouring troops prepare to withdraw by July 15. With regional forces poised to depart, Mozambique braces for the challenge of maintaining stability amid persistent threats.

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By Borges Nhamire and Matthew Hill

Islamic State-linked insurgents attacked the town of Macomia in Mozambique’s gas-rich Cabo Delgado province, in what is their boldest target in more than three years. The government said its army successfully repelled the attack after 45 minutes of fighting.

The violence is the latest in a string of attacks since December. It signals an escalation in unrest just as the Mozambican government is pushing for TotalEnergies SE to resume development of a $20 billion liquefied natural gas project that it froze in 2021 after insurgents raided the nearby town of Palma, killing more than 800 people.

The rebels attacked Macomia before dawn on two fronts, two people with knowledge of the matter said, asking not to be identified as they’re not authorized to speak to the media. Portuguese news agency Lusa reported that more than 100 fighters were involved in the attack, citing people it didn’t identify. Mozambican government forces captured one of the attackers who later died in custody, and injured a leader, who escaped, according to a statement late Friday.

Macomia — about 100 miles south of where TotalEnergies plans to build its gas-export facility — is strategic as it’s situated along the main highway connecting the provincial capital of Pemba with the north. It’s also where hundreds of soldiers from South Africa have been based since they were sent to help Mozambique fight the insurgency in 2021, as the biggest part of a regional deployment.

The South African National Defence Force is set to withdraw its troops from Mozambique by July 15, according to the regional bloc of which it forms part.

Rwanda also sent more than 2,000 soldiers and police to Mozambique as part of a separate bilateral deal, and they will remain to help the government, according to Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi.

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