Canadian geologist kidnapped in Burkina Faso found dead

A police officer standing guard during an event in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
A police officer standing guard during an event in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.PHOTO: AFP

OUAGADOUGOU (AFP) - A Canadian geologist kidnapped at a remote gold mine in northeast Burkina Faso by suspected Muslim militants has been found dead, the ministry of security told AFP on Thursday (Jan 17).

A body found with gunshot wounds late on Wednesday is that of Kirk Woodman, "the Canadian who was kidnapped the day before yesterday," ministerial spokesman Jean-Paul Badoum said.

Earlier, a security official said the body of a "white man with gunshot wounds" had been found in Siega in Soum province.

The body "is being taken to Dori for identification," the source said.

Another security source said the remains would then be flown by helicopter to Ouagadougou.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said her country was "appalled and deeply saddened" by the killing.

"Canada condemns those responsible for this terrible crime. We are working with the government of Burkina Faso and other international partners to pursue those responsible and bring them to justice," she said.

Woodman is one of two Canadians who have gone missing in Burkina Faso, an impoverished country in the front line of a jihadist rebellion in the Sahel.

He was vice-president of a Canadian company, Progress Minerals, which owns a gold mine at Tiabangou, located in Yagha, a volatile province near the Niger and Mali border.

He was at the mine when the site came under attack from about 10 armed men, Security Minister Clement Sawadogo said on Wednesday.

The assailants "rounded up the staff. They searched the base camp and made off with some equipment. They took the expatriate with them," he said.

Woodman had arrived in the country just on Jan 10, Sawadogo added.

In mid-December, 34-year-old Canadian aid worker Edith Blais was reported missing with an Italian friend, Lucas Tacchetto, 30, as they were travelling between the western town of Bobo-Dioulasso and the capital Ouagadougou.

TROUBLED REGION

The vast region on the southern rim of the Sahara is struggling with a bloody Islamist insurgency and a wave of lawlessness.

After chaos engulfed Libya in 2011, an Islamist insurgency gained ground in northern Mali, Burkina's neighbour, while Boko Haram rose in northern Nigeria.

Militant raids began in northern Burkina Faso in 2015 before spreading to the east, near the border with Togo and Benin.

Most of the attacks have been attributed to Ansarul Islam and the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM).

Smaller groups are also active, with the overall number of fighters estimated to be in the hundreds, according to security sources.

The groups are believed to be responsible for more than 270 deaths since 2015. Ouagadougou has been hit three times and almost 60 people have died there.

Eight foreigners have been abducted in the last four years, according to an AFP tally.

Among them is 84-year-old Australian doctor worker, Kenneth Elliott, who was kidnapped with his wife Jocelyn in April 2015 in Djibo, where the pair ran a clinic for the poor.

Jocelyn Elliott was released after a year. Her husband, whose whereabouts remain unknown, has been declared a citizen of Burkina Faso, under a decree issued last November.

Canada has 250 soldiers and eight army helicopters deployed in Mali as part of a UN peacekeeping mission.