Kidnapped women and children freed in Burkina Faso

Security forces have res­cued 66 women and children who were kidnapped by armed fighters in northern Burki­na Faso last week.

Armed men seized the women and their children on January 12 and 13 outside two villages in the district of Arbinda, in the Sahel region’s Soum province.

Security forces conducted a res­cue operation and freed 27 women and 39 babies, children and young girls in the adjacent Centre-Nord region, national broadcaster Radi­odiffusion Television du Burkina (RTP) said on Friday.

“They have found freedom after eight long days in the hands of their kidnappers,” an RTP presenter said.

In its main evening news bul­letin, RTB, referring to the army “operation”, showed images of the women freed and brought to the capital, Ouagadougou.

Several government and security officials confirmed the news, Reuters and AFP news agencies reported.

The abduction prompted alarm from the United Nations, while the country’s military government warned of a rise in attacks on civilians.

Burkina Faso is one of several countries in West Africa battling a rampant armed uprising with links to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS).

Armed rebels have occupied territory in the country’s arid and mainly rural north, executing hun­dreds of villagers and displacing thousands more in the process.

They have also blockaded certain areas in recent months and made it increasingly danger­ous to deliver supplies to trapped citizens.

Faced with acute food shortag­es, many villagers have resorted to picking wild fruit, leaves and seeds to feed their families. They say venturing into the bush makes them vulnerable to attacks.

On Thursday, two suspected attacks in the country’s north and northwest killed at least 18 people, including 16 vigilantes supporting the army. —News Agencies

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