Killings reported in Benin’s north

COTONOU, Benin (AP) — An attack by unidentified armed persons in the north of the small West African nation of Benin has killed “about 15 people,” according to the government’s spokesperson.

Spokesperson Wilfried Houngbedji told AP by telephone Thursday that the attack on a farm in the commune of Kerou, some 600 kilometers (370miles) north of Benin’s largest city Cotonou, began on Monday night.

Local media reported that several other people were abducted by the attackers.

Over the past three years, Benin and neighboring Togo have suffered multiple deadly extremist attacks, with an increased risk of violence from al-Qaida and Islamic State-linked groups spreading further south from Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

At a news conference Wednesday, Houngbedji earlier said Benin’s president, Patrice Talon, had called for a fact-finding mission in the area “to assess the real circumstances of the occurrence of this tragedy and consequently to draw lessons from it.”

The spokesperson suggested the military might have been able to do more to prevent the attack, without providing details.

The Kerou region is not far from Benin’s borders with Burkina Faso and Niger. The region, which is mountainous in places, has experienced a history of violence for more than two years, especially attacks by unidentified individuals.

In May 2019, two French tourists were kidnapped by jihadists in a national park in northern Benin and their Beninese guide was killed. The French army later intervened to rescue them in northern Burkina. Two French soldiers were killed in the mission.

At least two attacks on Beninese soldiers in the border region with Burkina and Niger in July 2022 were claimed by the armed group “Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS)”.

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