A Canadian kidnapped this week in a restive region of Burkina Faso has been found dead, a spokesman for the security ministry said on Thursday, drawing condemnation from the foreign ministers of Canada and Burkina Faso.
Kirk Woodman was abducted on Tuesday night by a dozen gunmen on a mining site owned by Vancouver-based Progress Minerals in the northeast near the border with Niger, an area that the government says is under growing threat from armed jihadists. Woodman was an employee of the company.
“This is a terrible crime and Canada is absolutely committed to working with the authorities in Burkina Faso to bring those responsible to justice,” said Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Progress Minerals said in a statement on Thursday that the company is “heartbroken” by Woodman’s death.
“Kirk was an incredibly accomplished and highly respected geologist with a career spanning over 30 years, with 20 years spent in West Africa. More importantly, Kirk was a kind person, a dedicated father and husband and considered a friend by all who knew him,” reads a quote attributed to Progress CEO Adam Spencer.
Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Alpha Barry offered his condolences, condemned the killing and said there will be an investigation to find and punish those responsible.
Barry said in a statement that Woodman’s body was found on Wednesday afternoon in the district of Gorom Gorom and was subsequently identified by colleagues.
“Kirk was a loving and hardworking husband, father, son and brother.” his son Matt Woodman said in a statement to Reuters. “Not a day will go by that he won’t be missed,” the statement added.
The death will fan concerns that the influence of violent groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State has spread uncontested into Burkina from neighbouring Mali and Niger.
Attacks by Islamist militants have surged in the West African country in recent months. A state of emergency in several northern provinces has been in effect since December 31.
Earlier this month a Canadian woman and an Italian man went missing in Burkina Faso, the security minister said. There has been no word since on their fate.
Security has deteriorated over the last few years across the remote and arid Sahel region just south of the Sahara Desert. In response, the United States, France and other European powers have sent troops and equipment to help stamp out the threat.
Tuesday’s kidnapping occurred on the third anniversary of an attack at a hotel in the centre of the capital, Ouagadougou, that killed dozens, shocking a country that until then had largely been spared the violence that plagued its neighbours.
That attack was claimed by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.