Jihadist attack survivors in Mozambique and victims’ relatives are pressing charges against TotalEnergies, saying the energy giant failed to assist them during the Palma attack of 2021.
The French petrol group is accused of negligence and failing to insure its subcontractors’ safety. At the time, TotalEnergies was building a giant gas plant in the region, known as Mozambique LNG.
The three survivors of the attack and four relatives of the victims are South-African and British nationals.
Militants of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack that began on 24 March 2021 in Palma, a town in northeastern Mozambique.
Mozambique authorities have said that only 30 people died in the attack. However, Alex Perry, an independent journalist, found after a five month investigation that over 1,400 civilians were killed.
The complaint claims that TotalEnergies knew of the jihadist risk in the region, as several towns near Palma had been attacked recently. They also say there was no proper evacuation procedure in place, in spite of the tense situation.
The American energy giant ExxonMobil, a major competitor, had abandoned its investment plans two years earlier, and repatriated its personnel given the local context.
TotalEnergies is also accused of failure to assist victims of the attack. The company reportedly refused to provide fuel to a private military company that was evacuating people from a hotel under siege.
The French energy company denies wrongdoing. It says it provided fuel for evacuation operations, but refused to support that specific private military company, as it was accused of exactions against locals.
In a public statement on its website, TotalEnergies also said that all of the Mozambique LNG workers and subcontractors had been evacuated.
The March 2021 attack marked an escalation in the guerilla war launched since 2017 by jihadist groups. It has since claimed thousands of lives.
TotalEnergies plans to restart its gas infrastructure project by the end of 2023, based on its positive evaluation of safety conditions on the ground.