Death toll from Benin National Park attacks rises as France opens terrorism investigation

Nine people, including a French, were killed this week in attacks on a national park in remote northern Benin on the volatile borders with Niger and Burkina Faso, according to a government update.

This outcome is the deadliest of recent attacks suffered by Benin, as West African coastal countries face repercussions from the Sahel countries that are fighting jihadists.

The Benin government said in a statement late Thursday that an African park patrol was expelling poachers and another patrol had hit two explosive devices on Tuesday, killing five park rangers, a park official and a French soldier and trainer who was with them.

It added that a third reconnaissance patrol also hit another explosive on Thursday, killing another African official in the gardens.

“The government wishes to reassure the population… that our strategy will secure this sensitive area,” a statement said after an emergency cabinet meeting.

African Parks, which operates a wildlife sanctuary in northern Benin, said on Wednesday that six people had been killed in the attack.

France said on Thursday it had opened an investigation into the killing of a 50-year-old in a “terrorist attack in Park W, northern Benin”.

No group has claimed responsibility, but the Benin Army has increased its presence in the area after two attacks late last year that military sources blamed on jihadists across the border.

Benin has long been one of the most stable countries in West Africa, where Islamic State militants and al-Qaeda threaten the Sahel nations.

Criminal smuggling gangs also operate along its borders.

In January, two Benin soldiers were killed when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in the northern Atacora region.

W National Park, which spans Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger, is attached to Pendjari Park where armed men kidnapped French tourists in 2019.

(AFP)

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