March 14 (UPI) — A Canadian woman and an Italian man have escaped captors and been found in Mali more than a year after being abducted in Burkina Faso, the United Nations said Saturday.
Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the head of the U.N. mission in Mali, MINUSMA, told the CBC that Edith Blais, of Quebec, and Luca Tacchetto, of Italy, both in their 30s, escaped their captors. A civilian vehicle found them and and took them to a U.N. camp.
MINUSMA spokesman Olivier Salgado tweeted a photo that showed Annadif welcoming the two ex-hostages in Mali’s capital of Bamako on Saturday morning.
Blais and Tacchetto had been headed to Togo to volunteer. They were traveling by car in southwest Burkina Faso when they were last heard from around Dec. 15, 2018.
They went missing in an area known to be a stronghold for an Islamic State affiliate. Fighters associated with the terrorist militant group killed four U.S. soldiers in Niger the previous year.
Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Francois-Phillipe Champagne confirmed in a tweet that Blais and Tacchetto were safe and thanked his counterpart in Mali, the president of Mali and Burkina Faso for their cooperation.
“We look forward to Edith returning home,” Champagne tweeted.
Militant groups in northern Mali have kidnapped a number of Western hostages for more than a decade, usually holding them until ransoms are paid.