Advertisement

Quebec woman released after abduction in Burkina Faso

Click to play video: 'Canadian woman, Italian travelling companion released after abduction in Burkina Faso' Canadian woman, Italian travelling companion released after abduction in Burkina Faso
WATCH: Canadian woman, Italian travelling companion released after abduction in Burkina Faso – Mar 14, 2020

A Canadian woman and her Italian travelling companion who were suspected to have been abducted in West Africa 15 months ago have been released.

Edith Blais, 35, of Sherbrooke, Que., and Luca Tacchetto, 31, had been travelling by car in southwestern Burkina Faso, heading to Toga to do volunteer work when they vanished around Dec. 15, 2018.

READ MORE: Missing Canadian Edith Blais was kidnapped and taken to Mali: Human Rights Watch

A month later, Burkina Faso’s security minister referred to the pair’s disappearance as a kidnapping, but the Canadian government did not confirm that, saying only that officials hadn’t ruled out any possibilities.

On Saturday, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne confirmed in a tweet that Blais was coming home.

“I just spoke to Edith Blais and Luca Tacchetto. I can confirm they are safe,” Champagne tweeted, thanking his counterpart in Mali, the country’s president and the United Nations Mission in that country for their support, as well officials in Burkina Faso.

Story continues below advertisement

“We look forward to Edith returning home.”

A source told The Canadian Press they arrived in Bamako, the capital of Mali, just before noon local time on Saturday after spending the night at a UN camp in Kidal, in the northeastern part of the country.

The source said the pair apparently fled their captors, flagged down a private vehicle and asked to be taken to United Nations camp in the area.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau says ‘as far as we know’ Edith Blais still alive, working to find out more' Trudeau says ‘as far as we know’ Edith Blais still alive, working to find out more
Trudeau says ‘as far as we know’ Edith Blais still alive, working to find out more – Jan 18, 2019

Instead, they were dropped off at a UN checkpoint where soldiers with the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in the area took them the rest of the way. After spending the night at the camp, they were flown to the capital on Saturday.

Story continues below advertisement

The UN mission’s spokesman tweeted a photo of Blais and Tacchetto, both wearing white UN human rights T-shirts and sweatpants and smiling, with the caption “They are free.” He later tweeted photos of the pair meeting with Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

READ MORE: Family of Sherbrooke woman missing in Africa reassured Ottawa taking case seriously

Al Qaeda and other militant groups have operated in northern Mali for more than a decade and have kidnapped a number of Western hostages, typically holding them until ransoms are paid.

Senior Liberal cabinet ministers met with Blais’ family in Quebec’s Eastern Townships region in January 2019 and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the time he believed Blais was still alive.

Click to play video: 'Ministers meet with family of Canadian missing in Burkina Faso' Ministers meet with family of Canadian missing in Burkina Faso
Ministers meet with family of Canadian missing in Burkina Faso – Jan 18, 2019

In March 2019, Human Rights Watch had indicated in a report the pair had been abducted and taken to Mali.

Story continues below advertisement

Another Canadian, Kirk Woodman, was found dead in northern Burkina Faso in 2019, near the border with Mali and Niger. An executive with a Vancouver-based mining company, Woodman had been kidnapped a day earlier by gunmen as he worked on a gold mining project.

Sponsored content