Soldiers from Burkina Faso (Photo: ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images)
An Irish national and two Spanish citizens who were abducted by gunmen in Burkina Faso have been killed, security sources in the country said Tuesday.
Spain's foreign ministry later confirmed that two Spanish nationals had been killed in an ambush in the east of the country.
The hostages were taken after an ambush on an anti-poaching patrol in eastern Burkina Faso on Monday.
The attackers were aboard two pick-up vehicles and a dozen motorbikes, according to security sources. The sources said the assailants made off with vehicles and various weapons after the attack.
Reporting from Madrid, FRANCE 24’s Henry De Laguerie said Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya confirmed that two of the bodies found in Burkina Faso were those of the missing Spanish journalists.
Foreign Minister González Laya told a press conference that the two Spaniards were from northern Spain and were working on a documentary on how Burkina Faso authorities were tackling poaching and on the communities of people living in the wildlife park. They were traveling at the time of the attack in a group with about 40 people, she said.
“It is a dangerous area where terrorists, bandits, jihadists usually operate,” she said.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez later also confirmed the deaths of two Spanish nationals.
The government of Burkina Faso took a more cautious approach, saying the four abducted individuals – three foreigners and a Burkinabe national – were still missing, underscoring that alleged photos of the victims' bodies now circulating on social media had not been formally identified.
The Irish government has said it was “aware of the reports and is liaising closely with international partners regarding the situation on the ground”.
Two soldiers wounded in the attack and evacuated to a military hospital in Ouagadougou earlier told AP they were attacked by jihadists who outnumbered their 15-person patrol.
One soldier was shot in the leg and the other in his arm, requiring it to be amputated. They insisted on anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the press. When the jihadists attacked, the soldiers tried to form a protective shield around the foreigners, but once the shooting stopped they realised they had disappeared, he said.
“We were discouraged. It’s like you leave your house with 10 people, you go to work and then you come back with eight people. What do you say to those two people’s families?” said one of the soldiers.
The foreigners had been traveling with the rangers for approximately one week, two of them were journalists and one was a trainer, said the soldiers. The rangers were conducting their first mission in Arly National Park after finishing a six-month anti-poaching training programme, he said.
Numerous other foreign workers have been kidnapped in recent years in the former French colony.
Burkina Faso, one of the world's poorest countries, is struggling with a ruthless insurgency by Islamists who swept in from neighbouring Mali in 2015. Almost 1,100 people have died and more than a million people have fled their homes.