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Italian taken hostage in Burkina Faso returns to Rome

(FILES) In this file handout photograph released on January 17, 2019, from the Facebook page dedicated to their disappearance, Luca Tacchetto (L) and Edith Blais (R) pose for a selfie at an unknown location. – A Canadian and an Italian kidnapped in 2018 in Burkina Faso by armed men were found alive on March 13, 2020, by peacekeepers near Kidal, in northeastern Mali, diplomatic sources and the UN mission (Minusma) said. “The UN peacekeepers found Friday afternoon in the vicinity of Kidal an Italian national and a Canadian national taken hostage in 2018 on Burkinabe territory,” a security official with Minusma told AFP. These are Edith Blais and Luca Tacchetto, said a diplomatic source. (Photo by FAMILY HANDOUT / FACEBOOK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – MANDATORY CREDIT “AFP PHOTO / HANDOUT / FACEBOOK PAGE DEDICATED TO THE DISAPPEARANCE OF EDITH BLAIS AND LUCA TACCHETTO”

An Italian who was taken hostage with a Canadian woman in Burkina Faso in 2018 has returned to Rome after the pair emerged safely in Mali, the Italian foreign ministry said.

A Mali airport source had earlier told AFP that the couple, Italy’s Luca Tacchetto and Canada’s Tedith Blais, had left the capital Bamako on a special flight.

A Canadian embassy source in Mali said arrangements had been made for them to return to their respective countries.

“Luca Tacchetto landed (Saturday) night at (Rome’s) Ciampino airport,” the Italian foreign ministry said, without saying how the two ended up in Mali.

Diplomatic and UN sources said the pair had been found in good health in the northwest of Mali on Friday.

They were located in the vicinity of Kidal, about 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) northeast of Bamako. Officials in Mali said they had escaped.

Burkina Faso, which had been a safe destination for years, has been wracked by jihadist violence since 2015 and several foreigners have been kidnapped.

An Australian and a Romanian national still remain missing.

Mali has been struggling to quell an Islamist insurgency that erupted in the north in 2012 and has since claimed thousands of military and civilian lives.

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