Under the microscope: Inside the attacks on Porga and Keremou
On the night of Wednesday, 1 December 2021 members of the Al Qaeda-affiliated Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) attacked a border security post in the town of Porga, in Atacora Department, Northern Benin. During the previous day, on Tuesday morning 30 November 2021, an army patrol near Keremou, in Alibori Department, clashed with ‘suspected jihadists’ killing one and allegedly injuring another. On 10 December 2021, an IED was detonated near a mining site near Porga injuring four soldiers.
These attacks are widely mediatised as further evidence of the ‘spillover’ of jihadist violence and the deliberate expansion of violent extremism into West African coastal states. If true, this is both an expected and dangerous development indicating a new stage in the Sahel crisis.
Several recent studies point to the risk of spillover into Benin due to the lingering militant threat along the country’s northernmost borders, as well as largely non-violent militant activities inside Benin. In 2021, four armed engagements between the Beninese Armed Forces and suspected militants have taken place. Since June 2021 there have been arrests of presumed militants deep inside Beninese territory (Kouande and Kouatena).
Nevertheless, we argue that it is crucial to consider recent events as separate and localised incidents that were the culmination of pent-up cross-border tensions in distinct geographic areas. This local reading provides an insight into how a spillover into Benin might practically take shape: First, via a growing nexus between trafficking and violent extremists and, second, as a result of (insufficient) regional coordination that risks pushing violent extremists into Benin.
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