Benin boosts security after 'terror warning'

Cotonou - Benin has put its security forces on alert after being warned of a "new terrorist threat", according to an internal armed forces memo and a senior army officer contacted by AFP on Wednesday.

The internal communication, which was leaked and published by several news organisations, ordered enhanced security and vigilance, particularly in border areas.

The head of Benin's army, General Awal Nagnimi told RFI radio it was a routine message sent to defence and security forces that should never have been published.

But according to a senior commander, the army "redoubled vigilance" last week after "a foreign country warned of a threat of terrorist attack".

The commander, who asked to remain anonymous, did not elaborate and said he did not know whether it was linked to Benin's involvement in a regional force against Boko Haram Islamists.

Benin has joined Nigeria and its neighbours Niger, Cameroon and Chad in a new Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to operate in the Lake Chad area.

Africa security analyst Ryan Cummings said a link to the Boko Haram conflict was unlikely as the 8 500-strong MNJTF had yet to formally deploy.

There was also "minimal evidence" of the militants' capacity to operate outside northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, he added.

A number of West African countries, however, have enhanced security after an attack claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Ivory Coast in March which killed 19.

Ghana and Togo in April beefed up security, again following a leaked intelligence report that indicated Islamists were likely to launch their next attacks in those countries.

Cummings said: "In terms of Benin, apart from being a former French colony, the country's domestic and foreign policy seems to provide little incentive for it to be targeted in an AQIM attack.

"It is not involved in regional counter-terrorism operations, has no history of Salafist jihadism/Wahhabist Islamist fundamentalism [or domestic policies curtailing the school of thought] and is not proximate to AQIM's traditional operating zone which is very much tied to areas sharing borders with Mali," he wrote in an e-mail.

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