Kidnapped Canadian found dead in Burkina Faso, officials confirm

Kidnapped Canadian found dead in Burkina Faso, officials confirm

Kirk Woodman lived in Halifax, but had been working in the mining industry in West Africa for a Vancouver-owned company. Photo courtesy CBC/LinkedIn.

Kirk Woodman lived in Halifax, but had been working in the mining industry in West Africa for a Vancouver-owned company. Photo courtesy CBC/LinkedIn.

Canadian officials are condemning the killers of a Canadian mining company executive whose bullet-riddled body has been found in Burkina Faso.

Kirk Woodman, a Halifax man who worked for Vancouver-based Progress Minerals Inc., was found dead Wednesday in Oudalan province, an official with the west African country’s Ministry of Security said Thursday.

Jean Paul Badoum said from Ouagadougou, the country’s capital, that the body was found with bullet wounds.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting in Sherbrooke, Que., Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called Woodman’s killing a “terrible crime.”

“Canada is absolutely committed to working with the authorities in Burkina Faso to bring those responsible to justice. And I think our first thought today is with his family, with his friends who have received some really dreadful news.”

Woodman’s family also sent out a statement.

“Kirk was a loving and hardworking husband, father, son and brother. Not a day will go by that he won’t be missed. Our family would like to thank everyone for the love and support we’ve received, but we ask for privacy while we grieve during this difficult time.”

Badoum said Woodman was kidnapped by armed gunmen from a mining camp, but officials have not yet identified the kidnappers.

He said no group has taken responsibility for the kidnapping.

Badoum said the body was found alone.

Burkina Faso’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Co-operation, Alpha Barry, said it is with great emotion and sorrow that the government learned of Woodman’s death.

“The government of Burkina condemns with the utmost energy this cowardly assassination and reassures that an investigation is opened and all the measures will be taken to find and punish the guilty,” he said in a statement in French posted to Facebook Thursday.

“The government shares the grief of family, loved ones and the Canadian government and offers them the deepest condolences,” Barry said.

Woodman was vice-president of exploration for Progress Minerals, according to his LinkedIn page.

Acadia University professor Sandra Barr said in an email late Wednesday that Woodman was quite well-known among geologists in Nova Scotia, where he was based, and had worked in Africa for decades.

“He was very passionate about the work that he was doing there,” she said.

David Duncan, a veteran exploration geologist based in Windsor, N.S., said he worked with Woodman on projects in Nova Scotia and overseas for more than four decades.

In an interview Wednesday, he described Woodman as a talented geologist _ part of a wider community of Nova Scotia-trained geologists who helped find mines around the globe. He had the ability to tell whether a good prospect could become a producing mine, he said.

Duncan and Woodman worked for Etruscan Resources of Halifax on some of the first gold mines in Niger and then Burkina Faso _ as part of a close-knit group of Canadian geologists who were pioneering the development of mines in western Africa.

After Duncan left in 2005, Woodman stayed on at Etruscan and firms that purchased its properties as their original discoveries were developed into operating gold properties.

“We were the up front guys, the go-in-first guys to see if there was anything there worthwhile,” said Duncan, recalling how they worked together on the Youga gold mine in Burkina Faso in the early 2000s.

He said working as an exploration geologist in western Africa always had its dangers, ranging from the risk of traffic accidents to contracting diseases such as malaria, but Duncan said in recent years the risk increased with the rise of Islamic militancy.

“It’s a terrible thing, a terrible thing. We understood since the Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler was kidnapped in Niger that part of the world had changed … with the introduction of Islamic fundamentalists into that part of the world,” he said.

“It’s gotten to be a much harder place… We were never worried about being kidnapped. Today, it’s a different world.”

The news comes soon after a 34-year-old Quebec tourist and her travelling companion were reported missing in the west African nation.

Sherbrooke native Edith Blais and her Italian friend Luca Tacchetto were travelling by car in southwestern Burkina Faso when all communication with their families abruptly ended Dec. 15.

A statement by Security Minister Clement Sawadogo referred to the disappearance of Blais and Tacchetto as a kidnapping.

West Africa’s Sahel region has seen a number of abductions of foreigners in recent years by extremists linked to al-Qaida or the Islamic State organization.

Burkina Faso recently declared a state of emergency in the region as attacks by Islamic extremists increased, especially along the border with Niger and Mali.

Sawadogo said foreigners should use extreme caution when travelling in dangerous areas of the country.

Files from The Canadian Press.

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