DAKAR, Senegal ( Associated Press) — At least 50 women have been abducted by Islamic extremists in northern Burkina Faso’s Sahel region, a local official said Monday.
Sahel governor Lt. Col. PF Rodolphe Sorgho said in a statement that the abductions took place on January 12 and 13 about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the town of Arabinda in Soum province.
He said the women were abducted when they were plucking wild fruits.
This West African country has been wracked by jihadist violence linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group, which has caused thousands of deaths and displaced nearly two million. Successive governments’ failure to stop the fighting has fueled widespread discontent and triggered two military coups in 2022, the last against the military regime that first seized power.
However, the current military junta, which seized power in September to restore security, continues to struggle to contain the violence.
A total of 116 security incidents occurred in the second week of January, according to internal security reports from aid groups viewed by The Associated Press. This represents an increase of over 60% compared to the last week of December.
The extremists have laid siege to cities across the country, preventing the free movement of people and goods. Rights groups say the town of Arabinda has been blockaded by jihadists for years, leaving women more vulnerable to attack if they try to leave.
“This is a very worrying and serious incident in Burkina Faso that highlights the vulnerability of women in blockaded areas,” said Ousmane Diallo, a researcher at Amnesty International’s regional office for West and Central Africa.
“All parties to the conflict must protect the rights of civilian populations and their right to earn a living. The government needs to pay more attention and protect civilians in these besieged cities, but adopt a tailored approach to protect women and girls. is also needed.