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Feb 22, 2019 | 20:10 GMT

3 mins read

Mozambique: A Brazen Attack on Anadarko Could Spell Trouble for Outside Companies

The Big Picture

Militant attacks have long been a risk for outside energy companies operating in Mozambique. Feb. 21 attacks mean foreign interests, energy or otherwise, will need to watch and see if the government can stop the militants. If the government cannot curb attacks targeting foreign companies, security needs will raise the cost of doing business in the region.

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What Happened                                                            

Unidentified gunmen carried out at least two attacks on Anadarko Petroleum Corp. employees Feb. 21 in northern Mozambique, Bloomberg reported Feb. 22. In the first attack, about 15 gunmen opened fire on a convoy of contractors and injured four to six of them about 5 p.m. as they were returning to a camp near Palma. In the second attack, a contractor working on a nearby airstrip for the company was killed. Some reports said the worker at the airstrip had been beheaded, a tactic associated with local militant group Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Hamo.

Why It Matters

The assault on the energy workers marks a shift not only in Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Hamo's targets, but also in its tactics: Striking a convoy along a secure road during daylight hours marks a departure from attacking unsuspecting villagers under cover of darkness.

The targeting of energy workers also demonstrates the insurgency's willingness to increase pressure on the government, which stands to gain tens of billions of dollars in energy investment in the coming years. These attacks will force the government to shift from being apathetic about a remote insurgency to taking seriously a strategic threat to its development goals.

These attacks will force the government to shift from being apathetic about a remote insurgency to taking seriously a strategic threat to its development goals.

The attacks so far are unlikely to significantly deter energy investment. But if the government is unable to quell the insurgency, companies could reconsider their positions given the added costs of keeping their workers and assets safe. The attacks will also serve as a warning to any other foreign interests, energy or otherwise, in northern Mozambique.

Background

Militant attacks have long been a risk for energy companies in Mozambique. Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Hamo has been active in northern Mozambique since at least October 2017, carrying out regular local attacks against civilians and police. This is its first known attack on energy personnel or assets.

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