Jihadists are “establishing themselves” in northern Benin, according to the NGO Acled

the report of Acled (Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project), published at the end of September, highlights a resurgence “alarming” jihadist violence in northern Benin. The organization, which analyzes data on conflicts around the world, recorded in less than a year about twenty actions attributed to extremist groups that have been raging for several years in the Sahel.

A first claim of IS

On September 14, 2022, the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group claimed responsibility for an attack on northern Benin for the first time. This action carried out two months earlier by its branch in the Sahel was to confirm “expanding” of its operations in this country as reported by the official IS organ, the weekly Al-Naba, quoted by the American center for monitoring jihadist sites SITE. Even if this announcement is pure propaganda, the operation which targeted military patrols in the Alibori region is taken very seriously by Acled. The reference organization, has been warning for more than a year against the risk of violent extremism spilling over (link in English) in northern Benin.

There is growing evidence that jihadist cells have become deeply entrenched in the northern regions of the country.

Leif Brottem, professor at Grinnell College and research associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Acled report

Jihadists “everywhere and nowhere”

ACLED has listed 28 violent actions that took place in northern Benin between November 1, 2021 and September 14, 2022. They are attributed in particular to the Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), a branch of Al Qaeda or the Islamic State organization. The insurgents follow the same modus operandi as in the Sahel.

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They travel on motorcycles at night to carry out lightning attacks in villages with the help of local accomplices according to the report, which is based on testimonies collected on the spot. “These unpredictable night movements allow jihadists to be everywhere and nowhere”, specifies the author of the report who explains that nature reserves serve as a rear base for armed men. He cites in particular W National Park, which spans Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. The Beninese part alone covers more than 8000 kmĀ².

The jihadist presence in protected reserves is one of the most acute threats civilians currently face.

Leif Brottem, professor at Grinnell College and research associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Acled report

Rwanda’s aid

The Acled report also indicates that the mixture of mobile attacks, Islamist preaching and violent coercion targeting certain communities in northeastern Benin has already been observed in western Mali. And in both countries, parks and other nature reserves have served as “strategic spaces” for the jihadists who use them to move around, hide money, weapons and hostages.

The Beninese army is deployed in the region to contain armed groups infiltrating from neighboring countries, particularly Niger. Faced with this persistent threat, Benin recently requested Rwanda’s aid. The latter has already lent a hand in Mozambique against the Islamists. Pending the realization of this project, the ACLED report insists on a proportionate security response that does not come at the expense of the protection of civilians. In which case, insists the NGO, “it could make things worse.”

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