American kidnapped in Benin, US Embassy says

An American citizen has been kidnapped in the normally peaceful and politically stable nation of Benin, according to U.S. officials.

A statement published Tuesday on the website of the U.S. Embassy in the West African country, did not identify the kidnapping victim or say when he or she was abducted. It only said the matter is being investigated and there is no reason to believe that other American nationals or interests are at risk in Benin.

The country — like its neighbors in the troubled, western corner of Africa — weathered repeated coups and military regimes after independence from France 52 years ago.

But Benin turned a corner in the 1990s, holding free elections in a transition that was considered the first successful transfer of power in Africa from a dictatorship to a democracy.

Still, Benin shares a border with the much-larger nation of Nigeria, which has been destabilized by the rise of Boko Haram, an anti-Western terrorist group that has led dozens of suicide bombings, including on the United Nations compound in the Nigerian capital.

Francine Ochabi, the press attache for Benin's president, said she was not aware of the kidnapping and that the government had no comment. An embassy spokeswoman declined to provide any further information.

An al-Qaida offshoot active in North Africa has bankrolled its operations by kidnapping foreigners elsewhere in West Africa, especially in Niger, Mauritania and Mali. But the so-called "kidnap economy" is not believed to have spread as far south as Benin.