Terrorist attacks in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province have led hundreds of people to seek refuge on islands in the Quirimbas Archipelago, while oil and gas company Anadarko has suspended work on its projects in Palma district over security fears.
According to Jessica Williams, a marine biologist working on Ibo island in the Quirimbas this week, boatloads of people started arriving on Ibo on 6 June, after an attack overnight on the village of Naunde which was burned to the ground.
On 7 June, Williams took a boat from the island to the dock at Tandanhangue on the mainland. “When we got to Tandanhangue, the dock area, it was full of people waiting to try and get boats across to Ibo and to some of the other islands to get refuge,” she told Zitamar News by phone.
Locals told Williams that people from Naunde also made their way directly across the water to Ibo and other islands in the archipelago, as there is no road linking the village with Tandanhangue.
The attack on Naunde was followed the next day by one on the village of Namaluco, further south of Naunde, causing more people to flee their villages in the district of Quissanga.
In the provincial capital of Pemba, a local resident told Zitamar News on Friday that refugees are arriving from Macomia and Quissanga districts. The source confirmed that the Quirimbas islands are also filling up with refugees.
“The whole drive from Tandanhangue back to the main road towards [the provincial capital of]Pemba was filled with hundreds of people everywhere on the sides of the roads trying to find chapas and trucks to get out of the area,” Williams said.
“The transfer driver that took us out was saying he has never seen the area so busy, so many people just trying to get out of the area. To see everyone with all their belongings wrapped up in big bundles in capulanas on the road. There is a lot of upset and scared people,” she added.
The district of Palma, where Anadarko is preparing the ground for a multi-billion dollar LNG project, has also seen attacks – including the beheading of up to 10 people in May.
Tomás Queface, editor of community reporting initiative Sekelani, posted footage on Twitter on Friday from a correspondent in Palma, showing Anadarko subcontractor staff in Palma who, Queface said, were refusing to work as they feared for their safety when travelling to and from the projects.
Zitamar understands that the company has since decided to suspend construction activities for security reasons, with all foreign staff confined to the company’s camps.
Interior minister Jaime Monteiro is visiting the district of Macomia, home to Naunde village, today, in an effort to reassure locals that the security forces have the situation under control after the recent attacks.
However, Williams did not notice any increased security presence. “It certainly didn’t seem like any additional forces had been sent to the area,” she said.
“We didn’t really see any police in the area when we were leaving yesterday. We had one stop point halfway along the drive but that was from the national park. Although there was a police officer supporting those guys, they were just checking the vehicles for how many kilos of fish we had. I thought that we might see a lot more police or military even, but we really didn’t see any of that kind of stuff.”
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