The 66 women and girls kidnapped in the north of Burkina Faso have been released | International

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Demonstration against the French presence and in favor of Russia in the Nation Square of Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, last Friday.VINCENT BADO (REUTERS)

The 66 women and girls kidnapped at the end of last week in the north of Burkina Faso by an armed group were released this Friday in an operation by the Burkinabe Army and transferred to the country's capital, Ouagadougou. The captives, including four babies, were located by the Armed Forces in the Center-North region, some 200 kilometers from the town of Arbinda, where they were kidnapped. According to a security forces source, the women were being transferred aboard a bus when they were identified at a military checkpoint.

Burkinabe Radio Television (RTB) broadcast images of the 66 women arriving in Ouagadougou this Friday night. According to the public channel, more than half were under 18 years of age and four of them had their babies with them. They were rescued in Tougouri and taken some 70 kilometers by road to Kaya, from where an Armed Forces helicopter took them to the Burkinabe capital. There they were received by high military authorities and transferred to a safe place to be interrogated in order to obtain information about their captors.

The 66 women were kidnapped between Thursday and Friday of last week in the surroundings of the town of Arbinda, in the Sahel region, when they were collecting leaves and wild fruits to eat, given the scarcity of food due to the blockade of trade routes by jihadist groups operating in the north of the country. The military junta that has governed the country since September 30, chaired by Captain Ibrahim Traoré, announced the launch of an operation to locate them, which paid off a week later.

In recent days there have been numerous attacks and clashes throughout the country with the result of at least 30 deaths, including fifteen members of the Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland (VDP), the force made up of civilians that supports the Army. in the fight against jihadism. Specifically, the attacks occurred in the provinces of Sanmatenga, Nayala, Bam, in the Center-North region, and in Banwa, in the west of the country. Terrorist groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State control large rural areas in the north and east of the country, where they blockade towns and cities, and extend their activity to the west and south. Two thirds of the country are outside the control of the State.

Captain Ibrahim Traoré has made the fight against jihadism and the "reconquest" of the country the main objective of his mandate. For this, he called for the enlistment of 50,000 young people in the VDP to which some 90,000 responded. Likewise, with the support of numerous citizen groups and a large part of public opinion, he has opened the door to collaboration with Russia in this fight to the detriment of France, Burkina Faso's traditional ally in defense and security matters. This Friday, a new demonstration demanding the replacement of the French ambassador and the departure of the French special forces from the country, as well as greater collaboration with Moscow in the fight against jihadism, toured the streets of Ouagadougou. Numerous Russian flags could be seen in it.

Burkina Faso has suffered from a jihadist insurgency since 2015, when armed groups active in central Mali began launching attacks in the north of the country. Currently, local groups such as Ansarul Islam and the Province of the Islamic State of the Sahel have gained strength in large areas and have caused more than 10,000 deaths and a serious humanitarian crisis due to the abandonment of crops and the blockade of trade, which has brought with it the flight of some two million people from their homes, practically 10% of the country's population.

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