BURKINA FASO – Two Australians have been kidnapped in Burkina Faso, officials said on Saturday, as a Malian Islamist group said the couple were in the hands of Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists.
The Burkina government said the pair were kidnapped in Baraboule, near the west African country’s borders with Niger and Mali.A resident in the town of Djibo, near Baraboule, said the couple had lived in the area since 1972.
News of the kidnapping came after a jihadist assault on an upmarket hotel inOuagadougou left at least 26 people dead, including many foreigners, in the latest violence to hit the country.
Burkina Faso Communications Minister Remi Dandjinou said on Saturday the couple were Australian nationals, correcting an earlier interior ministry statement identifying them as Austrian.
A spokesman for Malian militant group Ansar Dine, Hamadou Ag Khallini, told AFP in a brief phone message that the couple were being held by jihadists from the Al-Qaeda-linked “Emirate of the Sahara”.
He said the two were alive and more details would be released soon.
A military base in the same region was attacked by militants in August last year, with one Burkinabe policeman killed.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the hotel attack, saying it was “revenge against France and the disbelieving West”, according to a statement carried by US-based monitoring group SITE.
The attack and kidnapping will heighten concerns that jihadist groups are casting their net wider in search of targets in west Africa, two months after a siege at a luxury hotel in neighbouring Mali in which 20 people were killed.