Islamist militants kidnap at least 50 women in northern Burkina Faso

© Olympia de Maismont, AFP

Islamist militants kidnapped around 50 women in Burkina Faso's northern province of Soum on January 12 and 13, the government said in a statement on Monday, confirming earlier reports in the media.

Local officials and residents speaking on condition of anonymity said roughly 40 women were seized a dozen kilometres southeast of Arbinda on Thursday

About 20 others were abducted the next day to the north of the town, the sources said, adding that several managed to escape and return to their villages to raise the alarm.

The landlocked West African country is one of the poorest and most volatile nations in the world.

Since 2015, it has been grappling with an insurgency led by jihadists affiliated with al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group that has killed tens of thousands and displaced around two million people.

"The women got together to go and gather leaves and wild fruits in the bush because there is nothing left to eat," said one resident, adding that they had left with their carts on Thursday.

"On Thursday evening, when they didn't come back, we thought that their carts had had a problem. But three survivors came back to tell us what happened," said another resident.

The same person said about 20 women, who had not known about the first abduction, were subsequently taken the next day, eight kilometres north of Arbinda.

"In both groups, some women managed to escape and returned to the village on foot," the resident added. "We believe that the kidnappers took them to their bases."

'Humanitarian disaster'

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