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Two hostages kidnapped in Burkina Faso found safe and sound in Mali

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Italian Luca Tacchetto and Canadian Edith Blais are greeted by officials as they arrive at the airport in Bamako on March 14, 2020, after their release by UN peacekeepers.
Italian Luca Tacchetto and Canadian Edith Blais are greeted by officials as they arrive at the airport in Bamako on March 14, 2020, after their release by UN peacekeepers.   -   Copyright  MICHELE CATTANI/AFP
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A Canadian woman and an Italian man kidnapped by armed men in 2018 in Burkina Faso were found alive Friday in the northeast of Mali.

They are now "in good health under the protection of UN forces", report AFP news agency.

Edith Blais and Luca Tacchetto, both in their 30s, escaped their captors in the Kidal's area (West) and were taken to UN mission in Mali, according to a voice message from the head of mission, Mahamat Saleh Annadif.

A UN source said the pair — pictured smiling and wearing white t-shirts at the UN base in Kidal late on Friday — arrived at an airport in Mali's capital Bamako around midday on Saturday.

The source added they were to be handed over to Mali authorities in the presence of diplomatic staff from their respective countries.

Dressed in Tuareg, the couple had escaped their captors' surveillance, stopped a vehicle and asked the driver to take them to UN peacekeepers.

No information was provided on the circumstances under which they were able to flee, nor on their captors.

The peacekeepers took them to Kidal camp: "We checked them medically, they are doing really well, we let them rest," said Annadif.

Edith Blais, from Sherbrooke, Canada, and her companion, Lucas Tacchetto, from Venice, Italy, disappeared in mid-December 2018 while crossing this country of West Africa heavily affected by jihadist attacks.

The couple were driving to Ouagadougou from Bobo-Dioulasso, more than 360 kilometres west of the Burkinabe capital, when they disappeared, according to Edith Blais' relatives.

They were planning to go to Togo for a humanitarian project with the Zion'Gaïa organisation.

The Burkinabe government spokesman said in April 2019 that they had been kidnapped and presumably taken out of the country, but that they were not in danger.

A special flight went to pick them up on Saturday and bring them to Bamako, said Annadif.

"Later, we will be at the airport where we will officially hand them over to the Malian authorities, who will do the rest," confirmed Annadif to AFP.

Burkina Faso, which has faced increasingly frequent and deadly jihadist attacks since 2015, has experienced a succession of hostage-taking, including a Romanian and an Australian who have still not been found.

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