Africa

Burkina Faso: 50 women abducted by suspected rebels

Gunmen abducted some 50 women in Burkina Faso’s northern province of Soum on January 12 and 13, the government has said.

Armed men seized the women as they were picking wild fruit outside the village of Liki, about 15 kilometres (9.32 miles) from the town of Aribinda, and in another district west of the town.

“As soon as their disappearance was an­nounced, efforts were launched to find all of these innocent victims safe and sound,” Sahel regional governor, Lieutenant-Colonel Rodol­phe Sorgho, said in a statement on Monday.

“All means available are being used, in the air and on the ground, to find these women,” a security source told AFP news agency.

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“Aircraft are flying over the area to detect any suspect movement.”

According to local officials, the army and its civilian auxiliaries have carried out unsuc­cessful sweeps of the area.

UN Human Rights Chief, Volker Turk, called for the release of the women in a state­ment on Monday.

“I call for the immediate and unconditional release of all the abducted women and for the national authorities to promptly conduct an effective, impartial and independent investi­gation to identify those responsible and hold them to account,” Turk said.

One of the world’s poorest countries, Burkina Faso, has been struggling to contain violent activities by armed groups with links to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) that spread from neighbouring Mali in 2015, despite costly international military efforts to contain it.

Thousands of civilians and members of the security forces have died and some two million people have been displaced, and forced to live in makeshift camps.

A senior officer close to armed forces headquarters said the latest kidnapping was “the first really big kidnapping since the secu­rity crisis began”.

“Everything must be done to avoid a trage­dy or a recurrence.”

Armed group fighters have besieged towns around the country, preventing people and goods from moving freely. The town of Arbi­nda has been under an armed group blockade for years, making women more vulnerable to attacks if they try to leave, rights groups have said. —News agencies

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