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Fear. A lot of fear. This is the description most often heard from residents of Palma, the district hosting multi-million dollar Rovuma basin natural gas projects rolling and, perhaps because of that, the target of terrorist attacks.
The sentiment is accompanied by the often-reiterated imperative to leave the district for other regions, but, given the danger of travelling on almost all the roads out of the district, many have alternative but the sea route or staying put.
A resident of Palma village says people are forced to go indoors by around 5:30 pm, and are practically forbidden to use bathrooms located only a few metres away at night.
“At night, we use gallon drums inside the house as a lavatory. Even talking on the phone at night is dangerous,” Aruna Faque, who fled from Mocímboa da Praia to Palma, relates.
Her brother, who declined to be named, said another concern was running out of essential products in the coming days. “The Bengalis who lately provided most basic necessities have shut up shop and are preparing to leave,” he says.
It’s worse now than when one of his colleagues was killed, one source said, recalling the recent death of a trader in an ambush just over a week ago.
Recent information indicates that around 30 people were killed in the ambush on a truck near Pundanhar in which the trader lost his life.
The trucks ambushed were themselves transporting people and goods escaping insecurity in Palma, bound for Nangade or places of safety further afield.
The Nangade-Palma route was still considered impassable for civilian freight and passenger vehicles on Saturday, the source reported, and the “big boats” which had left Palma for Pemba in search of food and other goods had not yet returned, boding ill for a village with already scant food stocks.
For the population, the strong Defence and Security Forces presence does not in itself guarantee security – not least because most of the military are stationed close to LNG project sites.