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Illustration by Security Management

Beheadings in Mozambique Highlight Growing Conflict

State news and witnesses are reporting that militant Islamists beheaded more than 50 civilians in northern Mozambique.

According to a state-owned news agency, militants raided Muatide village on 6 November. CNN had reports from witnesses in the area, saying that the entire village attempted to flee, fearing death at the hands of the attackers. Those who were caught while trying to escape were taken to a local soccer field, where they were beheaded and dismembered. Altogether, the attackers killed more than 50 people throughout the weekend.

Mozambique’s Nanjaba village was also raided on 6 November, when gunmen beheaded two people and abducted several women, the BBC reported

The attacks occurred in the province of Cabo Delgado, which has seen several violent incidents initiated by the militants since 2017, according to the BBC. Years of such attacks have resulted in at least 2,000 deaths and another 430,000 people left homeless.

Previous attacks in the province include one in November, when nine people were beheaded, and earlier in April, when more than 50 people were beheaded or fatally shot.

With such attacks on the rise, The New York Times reported that the United Nations has called for an investigation into the attacks, some of which are used as an initiation for younger militants.

After the 2010 discovery and subsequent evaluation of a gas field in the province, Cabo Delgado is now the site of three liquified natural gas (LNG) projects. The first, the Mozambique LNG project includes offshore and onshore facilities along the Cabo Delgado coast, with French oil and gas company Total as a majority stakeholder and operator. The entire project is estimated to cost approximately $20 billion and production is scheduled to start in 2024. The other two projects, headed by ENI and ExxonMobil, and ExxonMobil, ENI, and CNPC, are worth $4.7 billion and $30 billion, respectively.

Several communities in Cabo Delgado were forced from their homes so that the gas facilities can be built. “According to a 2016 report by Anadarko, over 550 families would have to be physically relovated and 952 would lose access to their cultivated land to make way for the facilities of the Mozambique LNG project,” Al Jazeera reported in February. “In addition, over 3,000 individuals would lose access to their fishing grounds.”

Resettlement and compensation efforts are reported to have fallen short of an ideal solution, in some cases instigating conflicts between the relocated villagers and other communities. Meanwhile, employment opportunities stemming from the gas projects have not appeared.

Therefore, despite the massive investments from the LNG projects, and a ruby industry also based in Cabo Delgado, the militants—linked to the Islamic State terrorist group—have taken advantage of poverty and unemployment in the area to recruit younger members, securing a foothold further into Africa.

Militants have also targeted the LNG projects. In 2017 and again in February 2019, militants attacked the Mozambique LNG project site. At the time, Anadarko Petroleum Corp was the primary stakeholder in the project; months after the attack, Total reached an agreement with Anadarko’s parent company Occidental, purchasing Anadarko’s African assets for $3.9 billion.