On September 15th, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for two attacks near Guéné (Alibori) at the beginning of July. Data underlying this report suggest that, on 27th June, an armed group was spotted by civilians near Boiffo (Alibori). Four days later, the same group asked where the church was in Boiffo which caused panic and the deployment of an FAB unit a day later. On 2nd July, FAB and an armed group had their first clash around Torouzogou (Alibori). Two days later, on 4 July (some believe this incident happened on July 2), the armed group took revenge in an ambush near the APN and the FAB base at Alfakoara (Alibori).

This incident and the declaration by the Islamic State came as a relative surprise.

ISGS likely has a history in the Alibori region, yet hitherto this was largely of a transitory nature; the relative silence in recent years led to many assuming that ISGS had either been overtaken by JNIM or was in hibernation, with its strategic interests being elsewhere. The numerous contacts between the civilian population in Alibori and armed groups between April and August were generally attributed to JNIM groups from Tapoa via Park W.

4.1 ISGS-Benin’s origins and its activities in Benin

Although it is uncertain, it seems that the presence of ISGS in Benin stems from Niger.

The Islamic State was the first group to approach Malanville in 2019. Subsequently and according to one source, an ISGS leader would have spent at least several weeks in the area of Park W in 2020 (it is known that Park W became a “zone 5” – a fallback zone for ISGS leadership – in 2020 during the deadly clashes against the JNIM in Liptako Gourma).[23] Around the same time, previous research had found an ISGS presence in Woro Chateaux, Malanville, and Karimama (Benin) and attempts to extract taxes and encourage Sharia law.[24] In 2020, there were incidents involving ISGS just across the Nigerien border (e.g. in Katanga).

These contacts were facilitated by social, cultural and religious connections. The Tabliqh movement – a Sunni mission that is a ‘pure’ but non-violent movement but which is also tied to some ISGS presence in Niger (Tillabery) – had gained a certain foothold in Benin in the 2000s.[25] Furthermore, it has long been reported that the Dosso-Alibori border area has been subjected to rotating sermons aiming to ‘re-Islamize the Muslim base and the moralization of society’.[26] Finally, Niger and the Alibori border with Benin share the same type of ethnic Fulani population: the Tolebe. This specific Fulani group is found in the Liptako Gourma Area and in Benin; they are also found in Segbana, Kalale and Nikki. Although not exclusively, the Tolebe make up the majority of Fulani that are part of ISGS (and to be clear, the majority of Tolebe – or Fulani for that matter – are not part of any armed group).

Revisiting recent evidence suggests that ISGS might have been around for a longer period of time. Earlier this year, two Fulani individuals near Karimama (Alibori) were kidnapped and killed in Niger as they had promised to join the fight but later retracted. Data collected on the movement of VEOs also points to ISGS movement along the border with Benin from Niger in the Dosso area (June 9, 21; July 11, 15, 30). Reports show recruitment among Fulani in Niger in order to send them to Benin and large groups of motorcycles crossing from Niger into Benin, in spite of the high water levels.[27]

Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. (2021). North of the countries of the Gulf of Guinea: The new frontier for jihadist groups? Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. link.
de Bruijne, K. (2021). Laws of Attraction. The Clingendael Institute. link; ELVA. (2020). Tracking VEO Spill-over from the Sahel into Littoral West Africa. Situation report.
The Pew Research Center claims that VEOs have recruited from within the Tablique. See: Pew Research Center, 2010. Tablighi Jama’at. link
Brégand, D. (2012). Circulation dans les « communautés » musulmanes plurielles du Bénin. Catégorisations, auto-identifications. Cahier d’études africaines. link; Knoope, P., Chauzal, G. (2016). Beneath the Apparent State of Affairs: Stability in Ghana and Benin. The Clingendael Institute; Mossi, A.(2019). Étude sur les risques et les facteurs potentiels de radicalisation et d’extrémisme violent en république du Bénin. Cotonou. link.
E.g. on 21 September 2022, two young Fulani men living in the village of Rounto-Tanda [Monboy Tounga] (Gaya, Dosso) welcomed unidentified armed men (suspected IS Sahel) at night on the banks of the River Niger. These men had come from the right riverbank on the Beninese side. In complicity with another Fulani who owned a canoe, they supplied the armed men with provisions. Some young Nigerien Fulani have been recruited and are currently with the group in Benin, although the inhabitants do not report them for fear of reprisals.