At least 50 women have been abducted by gunmen in Burkina Faso’s northern province of Sahel. The kidnappings occurred approximately 15 kilometres from Arbinda by suspected jihadists in Soum province, Lt. Col. P.F. Rodolphe Sorgho, the governor of Sahel, said in a statement.
According to the residents in Arbinda, the two groups of women were taken as they were out gathering leaves and wild fruits because of a severe food shortage. A small number managed to escape and raise the alarm. The abductions happened on Thursday and Friday, but news has just emerged, as much of the area has been blockaded by Islamist militants.
“As soon as their disappearance was announced, efforts were launched to find all of those innocent victims safe and sound,” Sahel regional governor said in a statement.
All means available are being used, in the air and on the ground, to find these women, Aircraft are flying over the area to defect any suspect movement.
The military junta that seized power in September, vowing to restore security, is still struggling to stem the violence. During the second week of this month, 116 security incidents were recorded, according to an internal report for aid groups seen by The Associated Press. The number represents a more than 60% increase compared to the last week of December.
The Armed group fighters have besieged towns around the country, preventing people and goods from moving freely. The town of Arbinda has been Jihadi blockade for years, making women more vulnerable to attacks if they try to leave, rights groups have said.
“It’s a very concerning and serious development in Burkina Faso that exposes the vulnerability of women in areas under blockade,” said Ousmane Diallo, a researcher at Amnesty International.
In November 2022, Idrissa Badini, a civil society spokesman, raised the alarm about the situation in Arbinda, saying, “The population, which has used its reserves, is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster.”
The United Nations says nearly one million people are living in blockaded areas in Burkin’s north and east. The military seized power last January, promising an end to attacks, but the violence still rages.
Meanwhile, France, Burkina’s ally and former colonial power, issued a statement condemning the abduction and calling for the women’s immediate release.