A Canadian woman and her Italian traveling companion who were suspected to have been abducted in West Africa 15 months ago have been released.
Edith Blais, 34 of Sherbrooke, Quebec, and Luca Tacchetto 30, had been traveling by car in southwestern Burkina Faso, heading to Toga to do volunteer work when they vanished around Dec. 15, 2018.
A month later, Burkina Faso’s security minister referred to the pair’s disappearance as a kidnapping, but the Canadian government did not confirm that, saying only that officials hadn’t ruled out any possibilities.
A spokesman for the United Nations mission in Mali confirmed the news of the pair’s release on Twitter, saying “They are free.”
Olivier Salgado also posted a photo on Twitter of Blais and Tachetto, both wearing white UN human rights T−shirts and sweatpants and smiling.
Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.
The Al Qaeda terror group and other terrorist organizations have operated in northern Mali for more than a decade and have kidnapped a number of Western hostages, typically holding them until ransoms are paid.
Senior Liberal cabinet ministers met with Blais’s family in Quebec’s Eastern Townships region in January, 2019 and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the time he believed Blais was still alive.
Another Canadian, Kirk Woodman, was found dead in northern Burkina Faso in 2019, near the border with Mali and Niger. An executive with a Vancouver−based mining company, Woodman had been kidnapped a day earlier by gunmen as he worked on a gold mining project.