Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 May 2019

Kidnapped Canadian in Burkina Faso found dead

A Canadian national kidnapped in the West African state of Burkina Faso earlier this week has been found dead.

Security forces deploy to secure the area after an overnight attack on a restaurant in the Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou, August 14, 2017. Reuters
Security forces deploy to secure the area after an overnight attack on a restaurant in the Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou, August 14, 2017. Reuters

A Canadian national kidnapped in the West African state of Burkina Faso earlier this week has been found dead.

The man was abducted after nightfall by a dozen gunmen on a mining site owned by Vancouver-based Progress Minerals near the border with Niger, in an area that the government says is under growing threat from armed Islamist militants.

"It's the Canadian that was found last night in the province of Oudalan," Security Ministry spokesman Jean Paul Badoum said.

The death will fan concerns that the influence of violent groups with links to Al Qaeda and ISIS has spread uncontested into Burkina Faso from neighbouring Mali and Niger.

Attacks by Islamist militants have surged in the West African country in recent months. A state of emergency in several northern provinces has been in effect since December 31.

Canadian media identified the kidnapped man as Kirk Woodman. In a statement to CTV News, the family on Wednesday asked for privacy.

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The geologist went missing on Tuesday evening at a mining site in the country.

"The agents who were working were attacked by about ten armed men who rounded up the staff. They took the expat with them," the Burkina's security minister Clement Sawadogo said on Wednesday, adding that the Canadian company Progress Minerals was exploring at the gold site.

Woodman was the vice president of the company, mining sources told AFP. It owns the mine in volatile Yagha province near the borders with Niger and Mali.

Security has deteriorated over the last few years across the remote and arid Sahel region just south of the Sahara Desert. In response, the United States, France and other European powers have sent troops and equipment to help stamp out the threat.

Canada currently has 250 soldiers and eight army helicopters deployed in neighbouring Mali as part of a UN peacekeeping mission.

Earlier this month a Canadian woman taking part in a humanitarian aid program was reported missing after travelling in the West African country with an Italian friend.

Edith Blais, 34, and her friend, Lucas Tacchetto, 30, from Venice, were last seen on December 15.

The pair were supposed to travel by car to Togo for a humanitarian aid project with Zion'Gaia, which engages in reforestation projects, but they never arrived.

"Everything is being done to find" the three kidnapped expats, Clement added.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government is in contact with Burkina authorities.

Earlier this month, another Canadian man and an Italian woman went missing in Burkina Faso, the security minister said. There has been no word since then on their fate.

Ethnic violence left four dozen people dead in Burkina Faso at the start of the year, and a state of emergency was decreed in several provinces in the wake of recurrent jihadist attacks.

Initially concentrated in the north of the country, attacks have spread to other regions, including in the east, bordering Togo and Benin.

Attributed to militant groups, including Ansarul Islam and the Support Group to Islam and Muslims, the violence has claimed some 270 lives since 2015.

The Canadian foreign ministry has cautioned its nationals to avoid non-essential travel in Burkina Faso because of the "terrorist threat."

Updated: January 18, 2019 10:52 AM

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