Nine people including a Frenchman were killed this week in attacks in a national park in Benin’s remote north bordering troubled Niger and Burkina Faso, according to a government update.
The toll was the deadliest in recent attacks Benin has suffered as coastal West African states face spillover from Sahel countries battling jihadists.
An African Parks patrol flushing out poachers and another patrol hit two improvised explosive devices on Tuesday, killing five park rangers, one park official, one soldier, and a French trainer who was with them, the Benin government said in a statement late Thursday.
A third reconnaissance patrol also hit another explosive on Thursday, killing another African Parks official, it said.
“The government wishes to reassure the population that… our strategy will secure this critical area,” a statement said after an emergency cabinet meeting.
African Parks, which manages the wildlife reserve in the north of Benin, had said on Wednesday six people were killed in an attack.
France said on Thursday it had opened an investigation a 50-year-old national was among those killed in a “terrorist attack in Park W in northern Benin”.
No group has claimed responsibility but Benin’s military has increased its presence in the area following two attacks late last year that military sources blamed on jihadists from across the border.
Benin had long been one of the more stable countries in West Africa, where Islamic State and al Qaeda militants threaten Sahel countries.
Criminal smuggling gangs also operate along its frontier.
In January, two Benin soldiers were killed when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive in the northern Atakora region.
The W national park, which extends over Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger, is attached to the Pendjari park where two French tourists were kidnapped by gunmen in 2019.