Canadian kidnapped in northern Burkina Faso

by Reuters
Wednesday, 16 January 2019 19:13 GMT

(Adds comment from Canada's foreign minister)

By Thiam Ndiaga

OUAGADOUGOU, Jan 16 (Reuters) - A Canadian national was kidnapped in an area of Burkina Faso that the government has warned is under growing threat from jihadist attacks, Security Minister Clement Sawadogo said on Wednesday.

Sawadogo said the man was abducted around 1945 GMT on Tuesday by a dozen gunmen on a mining site owned by Vancouver-based Progress Minerals near northern Burkina Faso's border with Niger.

Progress Minerals chief executive Adam Spencer declined to comment.

In addition, a Canadian man and an Italian woman went missing earlier this month, Sawadogo said. "We have alerted our entire security presence to find these people," he said.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Wednesday that the government is aware a Canadian is missing in Burkina Faso and is working with local authorities.

"The relevant Canadian agencies are very much engaged in this difficult situation," Freeland told reporters in Quebec.

Attacks by Islamist militants have surged in the country in recent months and Burkina Faso has declared a state of emergency in several northern provinces since Dec. 31.

Security has deteriorated in Burkina Faso in the past three years as jihadists with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State, many based in neighbouring Mali, seek to increase their influence across the poorly policed scrublands of the Sahel region just south of the Sahara Desert in West Africa.

In response, international forces from the United States, France and other European powers have sent troops and equipment to help stamp out the threat.

Tuesday's kidnapping occurred on the third anniversary of an attack in a hotel in the centre of the capital Ouagadougou that killed dozens, shocking a country that until then had largely been spared the violence that has plagued its neighbours.

The same day, militants kidnapped an Australian doctor and his wife, both in their 80s. The doctor's wife was later freed.

The attacks were claimed by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Last year, eight people died and dozens were wounded in a coordinated militant assault on the army headquarters and French Embassy in Ouagadougou. (Additional reporting by Tyler Choi and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Writing by Juliette Jabkhiro; Editing by Edward McAllister, Mark Heinrich and James Dalgleish)

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