Foreign couple kidnapped in Burkina Faso in 2018 ‘found alive’

A Canadian woman and her Italian partner kidnapped in Burkina Faso in December 2018 have been released to the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in neighbouring Mali and they appear to be in good health, a mission spokesman has said.

Edith Blais and Italian Luca Tacchetto went missing while travelling through Burkina Faso, where armed groups with links to al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) group are active and have kidnapped Westerners in the past.

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A security official from the UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA, told AFP news agency on Saturday that peacekeepers found the pair near the northern town of Kidal.

“Both are well. They are under our protection. They will be transferred to Bamako on Saturday and then flown to their respective countries,” the security official said.

It is not known who was responsible for Blais and Tacchetto’s kidnapping or if any ransom was paid.

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UN mission spokesman Olivier Salgado told Reuters news agency that the two were received by peacekeepers on Friday evening and would be handed over to Malian authorities later on Saturday.

He shared a photo of Blais and Tacchetto wearing UN human rights T-shirts and sweatpants. Both are grinning in the photo and appear to be healthy.

No information was immediately available about the circumstances in which the two were found.

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Blais, from Quebec, and her partner Tacchetto, from Venice, disappeared in mid-December 2018 while travelling through the west African country.

The couple, who are in their 30s, were driving by car to Ouagadougou from Bobo-Dioulasso, more than 360km (224 miles) west of the capital, when all trace of them was lost, according to Blais’s family.

They had been planning to go to Togo to work on a humanitarian project.

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