French air raids kill 40 fighters in Burkina Faso

French forces have killed dozens of fighters in Burkina Faso linked to deadly attacks this week in neighbouring Benin whose victims included a Frenchman, the army said.

The French-led Barkhane force in the Sahel region “engaged its air intelligence capacities to locate the armed group” responsible for the attacks, before carrying out air attacks that killed 40 fighters, the army’s general command said on Saturday.

The Frenchman had been among nine people killed this week in two attacks on park rangers in the W National Park, a wildlife reserve in Benin’s remote north bordering troubled Niger and Burkina Faso.

Two roadside bombs killed five park rangers, one park official, one soldier and a French trainer on Tuesday, according to a Beninese government toll.

Two days later, another park official was killed in an explosion.

France said on Thursday it had opened an investigation as a 50-year-old citizen was among those killed in a “terrorist attack” in the park.

African Parks, the organisation running the reserve, said the Frenchman had been a “chief law enforcement instructor” there.

Benin had long been one of the more stable countries in West Africa where fighters from al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) threatened Sahel countries, but it has experienced several recent attacks.

Criminal smuggling gangs also operate along its frontier.

In January, two Beninese soldiers were killed when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive in the northern Atakora region.

Five rangers and a soldier have been killed and 10 others wounded in an ambush by unidentified assailants in a northern Benin park, its management said.

“In the afternoon of Tuesday, February 8, a team of rangers were ambushed in W National Park in Benin while carrying out a patrol at the northern limit of the Park where it intersects with Burkina Faso and Niger,” African Parks, a non-profit group that manages the park, said in a statement.

It added reinforcements from Benin’s army and additional rangers have been deployed on the ground.

Benin, a small coastal country in West Africa, has been relatively unscathed from a security crisis that has wreaked havoc in its northern neighbours across the Sahel region for much of the past decade. -AFP

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