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.

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

Captain Ibrahim Traore, leader of the military government that seized power last September, said in December that his aim was to take back territory occupied by “hordes of terrorists”.

Last week, he said the armed rebels were switching tactics to “focus on civilians”.

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