In a new development regarding the Palma attack in Mozambique that occurred in March 2021, seven survivors or families of victims have filed a complaint against TotalEnergies, the French oil group responsible for a mega-gas project in the region at the time. The plaintiffs, consisting of three survivors and four heirs of two victims, are accusing TotalEnergies of “involuntary manslaughter and failure to provide assistance to a person in danger.” The complaint alleges a series of negligent acts and failure to ensure the safety of subcontractors. However, TotalEnergies denies any responsibility and asserts that it made every effort to assist its staff on-site.
The attack in Palma, claimed by the Islamic State (EI) group, lasted several days and resulted in casualties among the local population and TotalEnergies subcontractors. While Maputo has reported a death toll of approximately 30, independent journalist Alexander Perry, who conducted a five-month investigation in Palma between November 2022 and March 2023, suggests that the number of civilian deaths or missing individuals stands at 1,402, including 55 subcontractors.
During the attack, many sought refuge in the Amarula Lodge, a hotel on the outskirts of Palma that was besieged by jihadists. Tragically, at least seven individuals lost their lives while attempting to escape in a convoy.
The lawsuit against TotalEnergies is primarily based on two reports by risk consulting firms that highlighted the absence of preventive measures. The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Henri Thulliez, emphasizes that the danger was known, as several villages had previously been attacked, indicating a real jihadist threat in the area.
Notably, TotalEnergies’ competitor, Exxonmobil, withdrew its investment in the project and repatriated its staff in 2019 due to concerns about the security situation.
Regarding the allegation of “failure to assist in danger,” TotalEnergies is accused of refusing to provide fuel to a private South African military company, DAG, which was conducting helicopter evacuations from the Amarula Lodge. The evacuations had to be halted due to a lack of fuel, according to Thulliez.
TotalEnergies contends that the Afungi site, where the gas project was located, was under the control of government security forces. The company states that all Mozambique LNG personnel, as well as their contractors and subcontractors, were evacuated, along with many civilians, totaling approximately 2,500 individuals. While TotalEnergies claims to have provided fuel for evacuation and rescue operations, it denies support to the DAG company, citing allegations of “exactions against the civilian population” at the time.
The meticulously planned attack on Palma, a port city with a population of 75,000, marked the culmination of a lengthy period of civil unrest in the region.
The legal action against TotalEnergies highlights the complex circumstances surrounding the Palma attack and raises questions about corporate responsibility in high-risk environments. As the case unfolds, the plaintiffs seek justice and accountability for the tragic events that unfolded during the attack.