Body allegedly belonging to Benin guide found after two French tourists reported missing

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FILE PHOTO/An ecolodge in Pendjari National Park, Benin
FILE PHOTO/An ecolodge in Pendjari National Park, Benin -
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FILE PHOTO/STEFAN HEUNIS / AFP
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A body believed to be that of the local guide accompanying two missing French tourists who were visiting Benin's Pendjari national park has been found shot dead, according to Reuters' sources.

On Saturday, Benin's Ministry of the Interior said they had found a body, which had not yet been identified. "A body was discovered on Friday. It has not been identified. We cannot come to conclusions on the fate of any of three persons missing."

Citing a local official and a regional security force, Reuters reported that the body is that of the local guide.

The fate of two French tourists — who were reported missing while vacationing in the national park in northern Benin, near the border with Burkina Faso — is unclear, said Reuters' sources.

France's foreign affairs ministry could not confirm this information but said in a statement that 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 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.

The guide's car, which had been burnt, was reportedly found in eastern Burkina Faso. However, it remains unclear whether his body was found in Benin or Burkina.

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.