At least five soldiers were killed on Monday in an ambush by gunmen in northern Benin, a senior security source and a parks conservation group involved in the area said on Wednesday.
Benin’s military has been targeted several times in attacks in the north where troops are deployed to help contain threats from jihadists who operate across the border in Burkina Faso.
An army convoy traveling to a military post located in Pendjari National Park, on the border with Burkina Faso, was ambushed on Monday, a senior security source in Benin told AFP when contacted from neighboring Nigeria.
The attackers first fired on the convoy before one of their vehicles hit an improvised explosive device (IED) placed on the road, the source said.
Five soldiers died and at least eight more were injured, he said, describing the attack as “well-planned and well-executed.”
African Parks, a South Africa-based conservation group that helps manage Benin’s Pendjari park and W park, also confirmed the attack.
“We are aware of an incident that occurred on Monday, 11 April 2022 in Pendjari National Park on the border with Burkina Faso, in which five members of the Benin Armed Forces were tragically killed and another was injured,” it said in a statement.
Local media, including Fraternite FM, the most widely-followed radio station in northern Benin, had been reporting the death of five soldiers since Tuesday morning.
Neither the army nor the government have yet confirmed this attack and the toll. Contacted by AFP from Nigeria, they had not yet reacted by Wednesday afternoon.
The attack comes after several changes made within the military and security structure of the West African country.
Last Wednesday, President Patrice Talon appointed a new Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, General Fructueux Gbaguidi.
“I am aware that I am taking command of all the forces at this time when our nation is facing terrorists who are trying to destabilize the country,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“The mission that I received from the President of the Republic is to continue to make Benin an oasis of peace whatever the turmoil that could be around.”
Until recently, Benin was seen as an island of stability in West Africa, where many jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) organization operate in neighboring Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.
Nine people were killed in February in attacks in the W national park in Benin’s remote north bordering Niger and Burkina Faso, according to the government.
The toll was the deadliest in recent attacks Benin has suffered as coastal West African states face spill over from Sahel countries battling jihadist insurgencies.
The W national park, which extends over Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger, is attached to the Pendjari park where Monday’s attack happened and where two French tourists were kidnapped by gunmen in 2019.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Benin’s military has increased its presence in the area following attacks late last year that military sources blamed on jihadists from across the border.