The first group of about 40 women was abducted about 10 km southeast of Arbinda and another group of about 20 the next day north of the town, according to the reports of several residents and local officials who wished to remain anonymous. Some were able to escape and return to their villages to bear witness.
Two waves of abductions
"The women got together to go and gather leaves and wild fruits in the bush because there is nothing left to eat," explained one of the inhabitants, adding that they had left with their carts on Thursday. "On Thursday evening, when they didn't come back, we thought there had been a problem with their carts. But three survivors came back to tell us what happened," added another resident.
According to him, the next day, eight kilometres north of Arbinda, some 20 women who were not informed of the first abduction were in turn abducted. "In both groups, some women managed to escape the terrorists' vigilance and returned to the village on foot," he explained. "We believe that the kidnappers took them to their various bases," he continued. According to local officials who confirmed the abductions, the army and its civilian deputies carried out unsuccessful sweeps of the area.
Numerous jihadist attacks since 2015
Arbinda is located in the Sahel region of northern Burkina Faso, an area that is under blockade by jihadist groups and is difficult to supply with food. Nearly a million people are currently living in blockaded areas in the north or east of the country, according to the UN.
Burkina Faso, particularly in its northern half, has been facing increasing attacks by jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State since 2015. These have left thousands dead and at least two million displaced. Captain Ibrahim Traoré, the transitional president who emerged from a military coup on 30 September - the second in eight months - has set himself the goal of "reclaiming the territory occupied by these terrorist hordes".