Canadian mining employee kidnapped in northern Burkina Faso: local officials
Kirk Woodman is pictured in this undated photo. (Handout)
Arsene Kabore, The Associated Press
Published Wednesday, January 16, 2019 1:12PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 16, 2019 4:27PM EST
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso - A Canadian national has been kidnapped by suspected extremists in Burkina Faso near its border with Niger, the West African nation's security ministry said Wednesday.
The Canadian man, identified as Kirk Woodman, was abducted overnight during a raid on a mining site in Tiabongou, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Mansila in Yagha province, said ministry spokesman Jean Paul Badoum. Woodman worked for the Progress Mineral Mining Company.
Burkina Faso recently declared a state of emergency in the region as attacks by Islamic extremists increase, especially along the border with Niger and Mali.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said her government has seen the reports of the kidnapping.
“There are serious reports he has been kidnapped. We are in touch with authorities in Burkina Faso and the authorities there and the relevant Canadian agencies are very much engaged in this difficult situation,” she said.
In a statement, his family asked for privacy and said they will not be speaking publicly.
“We have faith and trust in Canadian authorities to bring our husband and father home safe. We are hopeful for a fast resolution to the situation,” they said.
West Africa's Sahel region has seen a number of abductions of foreigners in recent years by extremists linked to al-Qaida or the Islamic State organization.
The seizure of Woodman comes soon after a 34-year-old Quebec tourist and her travelling companion were reported missing in the West African nation.
Sherbrooke native Edith Blais and her Italian friend Luca Tacchetto were travelling by car in southwestern Burkina Faso when all communication with their families abruptly ended Dec. 15.
A statement by Security Minister Clement Sawadogo referred to the disappearance of Blais and Tacchetto as a kidnapping.
Burkina Faso's security situation worsened last year with an attack on the army headquarters and the French Embassy in March. The extremist threat also shifted from the country's northern Sahel region, home to radicalized local preacher Ibrahim Malam Dicko, into the forested east near the border with Niger.
Burkina Faso is part of a five-nation regional counterterror force, the G5 Sahel, that launched in 2017.
Associated Press reporter Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.