UPDATE 2-Two French tourists and park guide missing in northern Benin

(Adds French goverment confirmation, background)

DAKAR, May 3 (Reuters) – Two French tourists and their guide were reported missing after failing to return from a game drive in a national park in northern Benin, near the border with Burkina Faso, the company managing the park and the French authorities said on Friday.

France’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement two of its citizens and their Beninese guide had been reported missing after not returning to their hotel on Wednesday evening.

“At the moment our teams are still searching for them,” said Fran Read, a spokeswoman for African Parks, which manages Benin’s Pendjari National Park where the three went missing.

“There is no evidence of them being kidnapped,” she said.

The French government has previously warned its citizens against travelling to parts of Benin near the borders with Burkina Faso and Niger because of the risk of kidnapping.

The police in Benin declined to comment.

Pendjari, one of the largest habitats for elephants and lions in West Africa, lies on the border with Burkina Faso, which has suffered repeated attacks by Islamist militants in recent months.

The violence has not previously spilled over into Benin, but the country’s military conducted anti-terrorism training exercises last year amid concern about militant activity across its borders in Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria.

Reporting by Aaron Ross
Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris and Allegresse Sasse
in Cotonou
Editing by Kevin Liffey and Edmund Blair


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