OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Security forces in Burkina Faso searched the desert close to the borders with northern Mali and Niger on Sunday for a Romanian security officer kidnapped on Saturday at a manganese mine where he worked, authorities said.
The Burkina Faso government said it was setting up a crisis cell and that the attackers, whose identity and motives were unknown, had fled towards the border with Niger.
“We have teams investigating on the ground but we are yet to find any trace of the kidnappers,” a security source told Reuters, adding that a commando unit of five people attacked the Pan African Minerals patrol at its concession at Tambao.
Islamist gunmen, separatist rebels and criminal gangs continue to operate in northern Mali two years after a French military intervention scattered gunmen from the main towns they occupied and U.N. peacekeepers were deployed.
In the past, kidnapped foreigners have been taken into northern Mali’s desert zones and later exchanged for multi-million dollar ransom payments.
Pan African said in a statement on Sunday the attack took place on the perimeter of its unoccupied site at Tambao. The company is a subsidiary of Frank Timis’s Timis Corporation. Timis is a Romanian-Australian businessman with investments in West African oil and mining.
Underscoring insecurity in the region, unidentified gunmen attacked the town of Boni, about 100 km north of the Burkina Faso border, killing two people, security forces in Mali said.
The Malian government said on Sunday in a statement it had launched a military search operation against the attackers.
Reporting by Mathieu Bonkoungou in Ouagadougou and Adama Diarra in Bamako; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg; Editing by David Evans