ISIS-affiliated radicals have attacked the Mocimboa da Praia port in Mozambique, and are threatening government control and foreign business. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Fighting between Islamic extremist rebels and Mozambique’s army over a key port is threatening to disrupt the East African nation’s burgeoning natural-gas developments, including a multibillion-dollar project led by French energy giant Total SA .
The insurgent group, which is affiliated with Islamic State, seized control of the Mocimboa da Praia port this month and government troops have moved into the area on Mozambique’s northern coast on the Indian Ocean to mount an effort to regain control of the site.
The seizure of the port has interrupted the transit of oil and gas equipment through the port, a person close to the Mozambican government said. Much of Mocimboa’s infrastructure has been vandalized, he said.
This person said the rebels had sunk a security forces reconnaissance vessel and that as of Thursday, the Islamic State franchise was fighting the Mozambican military from within the port.
The rebel group, which stepped up attacks in the northern part of the country last year, infiltrated several neighborhoods in Mocimboa da Praia, with the help of local accomplices, he said.
The rising threat to Mozambique’s gas fields underscores the expansion of the radical Islamic State in new territories following the loss of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq two years ago. It also reflects the inability of the security forces to stop militants from taking over key infrastructure in regions of Africa where ISIS is now expanding.
“ISIS was more organized and better equipped than the army,” said Lorino Machava, who lives in Mocimboa and is a dockworker at the port. “I could hear officers screaming that they were out of ammunition and petrol. The soldiers ran away.”
The Mocimboa da Praia port has been a logistics link for Total’s $23 billion natural-gas project, located 37 miles north. A month before the attack Total had secured $14.9 billion in senior debt financing for the project.
“Two weeks ago it was full steam ahead, but now it’s let’s wait and see,” said a Japanese shipping executive involved in talks to build some 16 new liquefied natural gas carriers worth around $2.9 billion to move the LNG. “We were supposed to arrange the ship charters this month so we can order the vessels, but after the port seizure there is numbness. We don’t know what’s going to happen.”