(Adds official confirmation of guide’s death)
OUAGADOUGOU, May 5 (Reuters) – A local guide for two French tourists who went missing on safari in Benin last week has been found dead in the Pendjari National Park, the park said in a statement.
The statement did not elaborate on what happened, but two sources told Reuters earlier that the guide’s body was found riddled with bullets and that the car that he and the tourists used was found burned out across the border in Burkina Faso.
The fate of the tourists, who failed to return to camp after an excursion in the park on Wednesday, was unclear, the sources – a local official and a regional security source – said.
France 24 television reported on Sunday that they had been kidnapped, citing unnamed regional sources.
France’s foreign affairs ministry could not confirm the information on Sunday, although it has acknowledged that two nationals and their guide had been missing since Wednesday.
Government officials in Benin and neighbouring Burkina Faso declined to comment.
The French government had warned its citizens against travelling to parts of Benin near the Burkina Faso border where the park is located because of the risk of kidnapping.
The country’s military conducted anti-terrorism training exercises last year amid concern about militant activity in Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria.
Still, the disappearances and death mark a rare incident of violence in Benin, which is considered a pocket of calm in restive and impoverished West Africa where jihadist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State have used local grievances to stoke violence and gain influence.
The sources said the guide’s car was found in eastern Burkina Faso, which this year has been overrun by jihadist attacks, forcing more than 100,000 residents to flee. (Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga in Ouagadougou and David Lewis in Nairobi; Additional reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris and Allegresse Sasse in Cotonou; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Jason Neely and Peter Cooney)