Australian couple kidnapped by militants in Burkina Faso: Islamist group

Burkina Faso forces free hostages from the attack on the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou.
Burkina Faso forces free hostages from the attack on the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou.PHOTO: EPA

OUAGADOUGOU (AFP) - Two Australians have been kidnapped in Burkina Faso, officials said on Saturday, as a Malian Islamist group said the couple were in the hands of Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

The Burkina government said the pair were kidnapped in Baraboule, near the west African country's borders with Niger and Mali.

News of the kidnapping came as a militant assault on an upmarket hotel in Ouagadougou left at least 26 people dead, including many foreigners, in the latest violence to hit the impoverished west African state.

 

Burkina Faso's Communications Minister Remi Dandjinou said Saturday the couple were Australian nationals, correcting an earlier interior ministry statement identifying them as Austrian.

A spokesman for Malian militant group Ansar Dine, Hamadou Ag Khallini, told AFP in a brief phone message that the couple were being held by militants from the Al-Qaeda-linked "Emirate of the Sahara".

He said they were alive and more details would be released soon.

A resident in the town of Djibo, near Baraboule, said the couple had lived in the area since 1972.

A military base in the same region was attacked by militants in August last year, with one Burkinabe policeman killed.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the hotel attack saying it was "revenge against France and the disbelieving West", according to a statement carried by US-based monitoring group Site.

The attack and kidnapping will heighten concerns that militant groups are casting their net wider in search of targets in west Africa, two months after a siege at a luxury hotel in neighbouring Mali, where 20 people were killed, against mostly foreigners.