5 soldiers killed in Benin national park attack

Five soldiers were killed in an attack by suspected armed group possibly linked to ISIL or al-Qaeda in a national park in the north of Benin Republic, two military sources have said.

The attack on Monday also wounded several soldiers who are being treated at a nearby hospital, said the sources, who spoke anonymously to Reuters on Tuesday
The soldiers were killed at the Pendjari National Park when an army convoy struck an improvised explosive device, they said.

It was the latest in a string of deadly attacks in northern Benin where groups linked to al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) armed group have spilled over from neighbouring Burkina Faso, the epicentre of conflict in the Sahel, and Niger.

The Beninois military has not officially communicated on the incident and its spokesman did not respond to requests for comment, Reuters reported.

The European Union (EU) has decided to suspend crucial military training programmes in Malias relations between Western forces and the West African country’s transitional military government soured further.

Speaking at a ministerial meeting on Monday, EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, cited the presence of Russian-affiliated forces in the country, as well as reports of human rights abuses by Malian troops and foreign fighters as reasons for the decision.

“We are halting the training missions for the (Malian)armed forces and national guard,” Borrell said.

He added that developments in the country “have forced us to see there were not sufficient guarantees … on non-interference by the Wagner group,” which he said was likely “responsible for some very serious events which have led to tens of people being killed in Mali in recent times”.

The Russian private military organisation has been accused by Western countries of acting with impunity in the country. It was also an accusation that had been directed at French soldiers in the past across the Sahel.

The EU’s decision comes after Human Rights Watch released a report on the alleged killing of 300 people, mostly civilians from the town of Moura, in a military operation conducted by Malian forces alongside foreign fighters.

The Malian army, which had previously said that about 200 “terrorists” were killed in the operation, said it had opened an investigation. -Reuters

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