2 Canadian women safe after abduction in Ghana; 8 suspects arrested
Published Wednesday, June 12, 2019 4:52AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 12, 2019 2:10PM EDT
Authorities say eight people have been arrested following the early-morning rescue of two Canadian women who were abducted in Ghana last week.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Ghana’s Minister of Information Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah said five Ghanaians and three Nigerians were taken into custody after security forces raided a building in a Kumasi suburb where the women were being held.
The two women, aged 19 and 20, were abducted from the Royal Golf Club in Kumasi’s Ashanti Region on June 4, according to the country’s Ministry of Information.
Oppong-Nkrumah said their preliminary indications suggest both women are “fine.” He said they were flown from Kumasi to the nation’s capital Accra.
“They have been in contact with Canadian authorities and are undergoing the necessary evaluations following a traumatic incident,” he said.
Oppong-Nkrumah said no ransom was discussed or paid. He added there is no indication yet the suspects have any affiliation to a political or religious group.
Youth Challenge International, the Toronto-based non-profit organization the women were working with in Ghana, identified the kidnapping victims as Lauren Tilley and Bailey Chitty. The organization said the women are safe and unhurt following their ordeal.
“Bailey and Lauren are receiving emotional and psychological support from professionals as they travel home,” the statement posted to their website on Wednesday read.
The parents of both women have been in contact with their daughters and are grateful to Ghanaian police and government, and the Canadian government for their actions, the statement added.
Tilley is from Rothesay, N.B., while Chitty is from Amherst, N.S., CTV News Atlantic reported. They are both students at the University of New Brunswick and were in Ghana as part of a school internship.
"Even though we're incredibly pleased to see a successful resolution, we need to respect the privacy of our students and their families,” a spokesperson for UNB said in a statement. “The students and their families have been and continue to be our number one priority and not engaging publicly is how we can continue to support them.”
A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said the government was “relieved” to confirm the women have been released.
“We would like to thank the Government of Ghana for their cooperation in the resolution of this case,” the statement said. “Consular officials are providing assistance to the Canadians and their families.”
The spokesperson said they wouldn’t disclose further information regarding the women’s “harrowing experiences.”
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs called the news “a relief for all of us.”
“As a parent of four daughters, I can just imagine what the family is going through, and I certainly was aware of the family, but it's great news to find that they have been rescued,” he said.
Amherst Mayor David Kogon said his community is "beyond thankful, grateful and relieved,” while Rothesay-area MLA Ted Flemming said he is “very glad” to hear the women are safe.
“Who could be anything but fabulously relieved that she's been rescued?” he said. “It's a wonderful story.”
Oppong-Nkrumah said several agencies worked together on the rescue operation, but no “foreign assets” were involved. He acknowledged that a Canadian team arrived in Ghana to find a way to help with local efforts, but that it was “not necessary” because Ghanaian security forces already knew what to do.
The minister of information said gunshots were fired within the premises of where the women were held, but he didn’t specify who fired them. He said one of the Nigerian suspects sustained a minor injury when they were apprehended.
The suspects can only be held for 48 hours without formal charges, according to the country’s laws. Oppong-Nkrumah didn’t rule out further arrests as the investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Although Ghana has long been considered one of the least dangerous nations to visit in West Africa, the country’s information ministry has been working hard to reassure the public that it’s still safe following a recent spate of kidnappings for ransom.
In April, an Indian national was abducted in Kumasi and rescued by police within 24 hours. Earlier that month, an Estonian consular-general was kidnapped on his way to work in Accra. He was also rescued soon after, according to local media.
“Security agencies continue to assure the general public, including Ghanaians and potential travellers, that Ghana is safe,” Oppong-Nkrumah said.
With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and CTV Atlantic's Laura Brown