Burkina Faso’s army has successfully rescued 66 women and children who were abducted earlier this month by Islamic extremists while gathering food in the country’s northern Sahel region. The hostages, who included 39 children and four infants, were found during a military operation in the Center-North region and safely returned to Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso. This operation was accomplished with the help of the Malian army, marking a collaboration between both countries in the fight against terrorism.
The hostages were kidnapped on January 12 and 13 while gathering wild fruit near the town of Arbinda in Soum province. According to security sources, they were found in the Tougouri region, located 200 kilometers (125 miles) further south. They were flown to Ouagadougou via helicopters and met by senior army officers.
The rescue operation is a positive development in the ongoing fight against Islamic extremism in the Sahel region of Africa. Extremists have besieged towns around Burkina Faso, preventing people and goods from moving freely. The town of Arbinda has been under jihadi blockade for years, making women more vulnerable to attacks if they try to leave, rights groups say.
Jihadi violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group has overrun Burkina Faso, killing thousands and displacing nearly 2 million people in the West African nation. The failure of successive governments to stop the fighting has caused widespread discontent and triggered two military coups in 2022. The military junta that seized power in September, vowing to restore security, is still struggling to stem the violence.
The collaboration between Burkina Faso and Mali in the rescue operation is a positive step towards tackling the growing threat of terrorism in the region. It is a reminder that the fight against extremism is not just the responsibility of one country but requires a collective effort from the international community. The successful rescue of these hostages is a glimmer of hope for the people of Burkina Faso and the Sahel region, who have been affected by the violence for far too long.