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Body of local guide found after French tourists kidnapped in Benin

Stefan Heunis, AFP |File photo of Pendjari National Park near Tanguieta, where two French tourists and their guide disappeared on May 1, 2019.

The body of a Benin tour guide was found in a national park and the two French tourists who were with him appear to have been kidnapped. French authorities have identified the couple, who are thought to be teachers.

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Autopsy results confirmed that the body found on May 4 “was that of the Benin guide of the two French tourists who are still missing”, the interior ministry said in a statement.

FRANCE 24 correspondent Emmanuelle Sodji reported that French authorities have identified the couple and believe them to be teachers. "The French embassy in Benin does not wish to identify them for the moment," she added.

The four-wheel drive Toyota they were in was found "without its occupants", a security source said, and so “the kidnapping theory is being favoured”.

France said efforts were under way to find the pair, who disappeared in the remote Pendjari National Park. “France is going to activate all its networks in Benin and Burkina Faso to find the two,” Sodji said.

The couple were expected to return Wednesday evening to their hotel in remote Pendjari National Park, some 550 kilometres (340 miles) from Benin's economic capital Cotonou.

The vehicle they were travelling in was found hundreds of miles away completely incinerated, Sodji said. The two are believed to have crossed the river separating Benin from Burkina Faso.

“We know at the moment that they crossed the river on foot because traces of their transit were found,” Sodji said.

Pendjari is one of the largest remaining conservation regions for elephants and lions in West Africa, according to a park official.

It is a vast area of 4,800 square kilometres (1,850 square miles) but part of a far larger wilderness area spreading into Burkina Faso and Niger to the north.

Benin is considered an island of stability in West Africa, a troubled region where many jihadist groups operate, but Pendjari lies on the porous and remote border with Burkina Faso, which has been hard hit by militant violence.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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