The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claims to have kidnapped and killed Canadian geologist Kirk Woodman while he was working in Burkina Faso, West Africa, according to published reports.
Woodman’s body was found on January 16, 2019, two days after his abduction by a dozen gunmen at a mining site operated by privately owned Vancouver company Progress Minerals.
A report by Reuters news service said security sources believe he actually died during a botched attempt by a criminal gang to sell him on to another group.
Burkina Faso officials told Reuters that Woodman had been shot and his body was dumped in an area that is facing a growing threat from Islamist militants, some with links to Islamic State and as Qaeda.
Progress has previously confirmed that its exploration camp near Tantiabongou in the Sahel region of northern Burkina Faso near the frontier with Niger was attacked and that Woodman was kidnapped and was later found dead.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland described the incident as “a terrible crime.” She said the Canadian government is committed to working with authorities in Burkina Faso to bring those responsible to justice.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Woodman was vice-president, exploration at Progress Minerals. He has worked continuously for more than 30 years since graduating with a BSc. (Geology) from Acadia University in Nova Scotia and gained considerable experience in the mining exploration and development industry.
He spent the last 15 years exploring for gold in the Archean greenstone belts of West Africa. From May, 2015 to April 2016, he was vice-president, geology at Endeavour Mining Corp. [EDV-TSX]. He also worked as a chief geologist for Etruscan Resources from March 2005 to August 2010.
Burkina is a landlocked nation, which has proven to be fertile ground for Canadian companies who are aiming to build profitable gold production.
It covers an area of roughly 274,000 km2 and has an estimated population of more than 16 million. The country has a stable political setting with a pro-mining and foreign investment stance.
But working there can be risky.
In January 2016, Islamists attacked a hotel and café in the country’s capital, Ouagadougou, killing 29 people. The café was frequented by French military and other expatriates.
In recent months, the security situation there has deteriorated rapidly, forcing the government to declare a state of emergency in several northern provinces. That prompted the Canadian government to issue a travel warning to citizens advising them to avoid all non-essential travel to Burkina Faso due to the threat of terrorism especially in areas located near the border with Mali and Niger.
Reuters reported that in an article trumpeting Islamic State’s insurgencies into Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, the group’s weekly Al-Naba newspaper detailed an operation to kidnap and kill Woodman and showed a photograph of what it claimed was his driver’s license.
The Islamic State newspaper said “the kidnapping and killing of a Canadian crusader” has increased the West’s interest in “the war of Mujahideen” in Burkina Faso.
Prior to Wednesday’s news report, it was speculated that the Halifax native may have been targeted while buying gold from artisanal miners. Jean Paul Badoum, an official with the West African country’s Ministry of Security, previously told the Canadian Press that gunmen who kidnapped Woodman appear to have stolen a number of items, including money, cell phones and computers.