TotalEnergies hit with lawsuit over 2021 Mozambique jihadist massacreTue, 10 Oct 2023 14:33:20 GMT

Seven survivors and relatives of victims of a bloody 2021 jihadist attack near a major gas field in northern Mozambique have launched legal action against France’s TotalEnergies, accusing it of failing to protect its subcontractors, their lawyers said Tuesday.Islamic State-linked militants killed dozens of people when they attacked the Mozambican port town of Palma on March 24, 2021, sending thousands of people fleeing into the surrounding forest.The attack in Cabo Delgado province lasted several days. Some of the victims were beheaded.The criminal complaint filed on Monday accuses TotalEnergies, which was developing a $20 billion liquefied natural gas project at Afungi near Palma, of involuntary manslaughter and failure to assist persons in danger.Mozambique’s government said around 30 people were killed in the attack but Alex Perry, an independent journalist who carried out a five-month investigation into the massacre, counted 1,402 people dead or missing, including 55 Total contractors.- ‘Danger was known’ -Seven British and South African complainants — three survivors and four relatives of victims — accuse TotalEnergies, which was still known as Total in 2021, of failing to take steps to ensure the safety of subcontractors before the assault.The Al-Shabab group (no link to the Somali group of the same name) which carried out the attack had been active in Cabo Delgado province since 2017 and drawing ever closer to Palma.”The danger was known. Several villages had already been attacked before the Palma attack, and there was a real jihadist threat,” the complainants lawyer Thulliez argued.Total is also accused of refusing to provide fuel to a South African security company that organized helicopter rescues from a besieged hotel during the attack.The company eventually ran out of fuel, leaving people stranded inside.Janik Armstrong, a Canadian whose husband Adrian Nel was killed in the siege, told reporters in Paris Tuesday how he held out under siege for two days at Amarula Lodge, with 150 others “waiting for a rescue by Total or the Mozambican security forces that never came.” She said that when they realised that “they had been abandoned” they tried to break out in a convoy of cars but came under fire from the gunmen, who killed her husband.She quoted Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne declaring in February 2021 that security both of Total staff and subcontractors in Mozambique was his “highest priority” and said: “We are here today to call Total to account for those broken promises.”Britain’s Mark Mawyer whose brother Philip also died in the attack, said he joined the legal action to commemorate the dead because he did not want to “let Total brush their memory under the carpet”.On its website Tuesday TotalEnergies said that “all the staff of Mozambique LNG and its contractors and subcontractors had been evacuated”, mostly by boat.The company also insisted it had supplied fuel for the rescue operation.In July 2021, Rwanda and southern African countries deployed troops which helped Mozambique retake control of much of Cabo Delgado. Pouyanne has indicated that he hopes to soon relaunch the Afungi project — the fourth-largest offshore gas project in the world at the time of its discovery in 2010 — despite low-level jihadist attacks continuing in part of Cabo Delgado.This is the second criminal complaint against the French gas giant in days.Last week, four environmental groups launched legal action against the group for “climaticide” over a controversial oil project in Tanzania and Uganda.