Northern Burkina: fifty women kidnapped by suspected jihadists

Around 50 women were abducted on Thursday and Friday by suspected jihadists in Arbinda, in northern Burkina Faso, local officials and residents of this town regularly affected by violence told AFP on Sunday.

According to the testimony of several residents and local officials wishing to remain anonymous, a first group of about forty women was kidnapped about ten kilometers south-east of Arbinda and another of about twenty the next day north of this municipality.

Some were able to escape and return to their villages to testify, around fifty did not return.

“The women have gathered to go pick leaves and wild fruits in the bush because there is nothing left to eat”, explained one of the inhabitants, adding that they had left with their carts during the day of Thursday.

“On Thursday evening, not seeing them return, we thought that their carts had had a problem. But three survivors came back to tell us what happened,” added another resident.

According to him, the next day, eight kilometers north of Arbinda, about twenty women who were not informed of the first kidnapping, were in turn victims of a kidnapping.

“In both groups, women managed to escape the vigilance of the terrorists and returned to the village on foot,” he explained.

“We believe the kidnappers took them to their various bases,” he continued.

According to local officials who confirmed the abductions, the army and its civilian auxiliaries searched the area, without success.

– Blockade –

The commune of Arbinda is located in the Sahel region, in the north of Burkina Faso, an area under blockade by jihadist groups and which is hardly supplied with food.

These supplies are crucial: in many parts of the country, agricultural production of food is non-existent because the fields are not accessible due to insecurity.

Last November, the spokesperson for a group of civil society organizations in the region, Idrissa Badini, expressed alarm at the situation in Arbinda.

“The population that has exhausted its reserve stocks is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe,” he explained.

Nearly a million people currently live in areas under blockade, in the north or east of the country, according to the United Nations.

Arbinda and its surroundings are regularly the scene of deadly jihadist attacks which target civilians in particular.

Two of them were particularly bloody: in August 2021, 80 people (including 65 civilians) died in the attack on the convoy taking them to Arbinda and in December 2019, 42 people (including 35 civilians) were killed in an attack on the city.

Burkina Faso, particularly in its northern half, has been confronted since 2015 with increasing attacks by jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. They left thousands dead and at least two million displaced.

Captain Ibrahim Traoré, transitional president resulting from a military coup on September 30 – the second in eight months – has set himself the objective of “reclaiming the territory occupied by these hordes of terrorists”.

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