France angers Benin over travel warning

The Republic of Benin on Sunday reacted harshly after France warned its citizens there to be on alert for possible revenge kidnappings or attacks over its military offensive in Mali.

Benin’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it had learned “with astonishment and amazement” about the warning through the media and wanted more information on what led to it.

“The government formally denies these baseless allegations which create an artificial fear in national and international public opinion…,” the statement said.

Government officials said security had been boosted in potentially risky areas since Benin committed to send up to 650 soldiers for the military effort targeting Islamists in Mali.

A travel advisory posted on the French foreign ministry’s website said Saturday that France’s intervention in Mali “may have repercussions on the security of French residents or tourists” in Benin and other nations in the 15-member ECOWAS bloc of west African states.

The abduction on Tuesday of seven members of the same French family from Cameroon was blamed on Nigerian Islamists. Benin, a former French colony of some nine million people, borders Nigeria.

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