Cotonou – Benin’s government warned on Wednesday that armed “terrorist” groups were seeking to recruit new members within its borders as the West African country attempts to stem the spread of jihadism from the Sahel.
Benin’s security forces have been targeted in several attacks since troops reinforced their presence in northern border regions to counter the threat from jihadist groups in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
The government said the militant groups had suffered “heavy losses” in the Sahel and are now crossing into Benin to recruit sympathisers with “false promises.”
“The recruits are indoctrinated, drugged and armed to attack property and peaceful populations,” the government said in a statement, adding that the jihadists are “primarily” targeting the army and security forces.
It urged citizens to collaborate with the military against the jihadists.
The statement said “refusing to collaborate” with the police, army or local authorities would be “considered as a support for the armed terrorist groups and treated as such.”
The declaration came three days after the latest deadly attack, in which gunmen killed two police officers at a police station in the north of the country.
Authorities said two assailants were also killed after soldiers quickly deployed to the area.
They did not specify whether the attack was carried out by a local armed group or by militants from neighbouring countries.
Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger are struggling with jihadist insurgencies and neighbouring states such as Benin, Ghana, Togo and Ivory Coast are increasingly concerned about violence crossing southward into their territories.
At the end of May, Benin’s government admitted that the north of the country had been the target of around twenty attacks by armed groups, though it did not use the word “jihadist.”