Canadian Edith Blais and her Italian Luca Tacchetto are thought to have been kidnapped in burkina Faso in December 2018. (Facebook/The Canadian Press)

Canadian kidnap victim returns home only to face COVID-19 quarantine

A Canadian woman who was kidnapped in Western Africa 15 months ago along with her Italian boyfriend has finally arrived in Canada after the pair managed to escape their captors in northern Mali earlier this month, the woman’s family said Thursday.

But Edith Blais is still unable to enjoy complete freedom. Under Canada’s quarantine rules enacted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Quebec woman has to spend 14 days in self-isolation.

Blais is in good health and is grateful to be home in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and the family is “very happy with this unexpected outcome,” the statement said.

In a personal message added to the family statement, Blais wrote that she would like to thank all those who supported them and took their well-being to heart.

“My heart is now with all the people who are suffering in this critical time of pandemic,” Blais said. “Life is full of struggles; we must always maintain hope. Let’s all maintain hope together and take care of each other.”

Blais, 35, and her boyfriend, Luca Tacchetto, 31, were kidnapped by a suspected jihadist cell in southwestern Burkina Faso on Dec. 15, 2018.

Edith Blais and her Italian friend Luca Tacchetto were last seen in the Burkina Faso city of Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso’s southwest, on Dec. 15, 2018. They had planned to drive to the capital of Ouagadougou before crossing into neighbouring Togo.

They were travelling by car from the northern Italian town of Vigonza, outside Padua, bound for Togo, where they planned to do volunteer work.

After making their way through France, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania and Mali, they arrived in the city of Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso’s southwest.

That’s where they were last seen on Dec. 15, 2018 in a region plagued by kidnappings by al-Qaeda and other militant groups.

On March 13, 15 month after their ordeal began in Burkina Faso, they reappeared in northern Mali.

Edith Blais and Luca Tacchetto meet with Canada’s ambassador to Mali, Michael Elliott, after being found in Mali. Blais returned to Canada on Thursday, March 26. (MINUSMA, the UN Mission in Mali)

According to UN officials in Mali, the pair apparently fled their captors, hailed a private vehicle and asked to be taken to United Nations camp in the area.

Instead, they were dropped off at a UN checkpoint where soldiers with the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in the area took them the rest of the way.

After spending the night at the camp they were flown to the Malian capital Bamako.

The happy ending is in sharp contrast with the story of another Canadian who disappeared in the region.

Barely over a month after Blais and Tacchetto disappeared, Kirk Woodman, who worked for a Vancouver-based mining company, was found dead in northern Burkino Faso near the border with Mali and Niger.

With files from Terry Haig and The Canadian Press

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