50 women abducted in Burkina Faso by suspected terrorists
The kidnappers are suspected to be affiliated to Al-Qaeda or IS.
About 50 women were abducted on Friday by suspected terrorists in Burkina Faso, in the northern town of Abrdinda, a region that has been under blockade by extremist groups for nearly a year.
According to testimonies of several witnesses and local officials who wished to remain anonymous, a first group of forty women was kidnapped on Thursday about a dozen kilometers from the southeast of Arbinda.
A second group made of ten to twenty women was kidnapped the following day up in the north of the city.
Some of the women reportedly managed to escape and return to their villages to tell what had happened.
The kidnappers are suspected to be affiliated with Al-Qaeda or IS, sources say.
"While they were out looking for wild fruit, these wives, mothers, and girls were wrongfully taken by armed men," Sahel regional governor Lieutenant-Colonel Rodolphe Sorgho said in a statement.
"As soon as their disappearance was announced, efforts were launched to find all of these innocent victims safe and sound," he added.
A security source told AFP on Monday that "all means available are being used, in the air and on the ground, to find these women."
"Aircraft are flying over the area to detect any suspicious movement."
UN human rights chief Volker Turk called for "the immediate and unconditional release of all the abducted women," adding that this "could be the first such attack deliberately targeting women in Burkina Faso."
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Abductions and armed conflicts have been quite frequent in the city of Arbinda in recent years.
For nearly a year since the country has been struck by insurgencies, Idrissa Badini, a civil society spokesman, said that the population of Arbinda "is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster" due to it running out of vital reserves.
The UN estimates that about one million people live in blockaded regions in Burkina Faso.
Over the past year, Burkina Faso saw a number of political instabilities, with two governments subsequently overthrown over the course of nine months.
In October 2022, Ibrahim Traore was sworn in as head of the transitional government of Burkina Faso in front of the country's constitutional council.
In late September, Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, the leader of an interim government who came to power through a coup in early 2022, was ousted by a group of military officers led by Traore in what became the second military takeover in the country in eight months. Damiba himself had overthrown elected President Roch Marc Christian Kabore in January 2022.
It is noteworthy that the UN warned in October 2022 that 4.9 million people, or a fifth of Burkina Faso's population, are in urgent need of aid, citing the fact that many "mothers were compelled to feed their children with leaves and salt."
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