An Irish national is missing in Burkina Faso and two Spaniards have been killed after being attacked by gunmen during an anti-poaching patrol, officials said.
A military wildlife unit was ambushed on Monday morning while travelling with the foreigners, nine miles from their base in the eastern town of Natiaboni, said Yendifimba Jean-Claude Louari, mayor of Fada N’gourma, the main town in the east.
Two Spanish journalists and the Irish citizen went missing near a national park, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, Spain’s foreign affairs minister, said in a press conference.
The two Spaniards were from northern Spain and were working on a documentary on how Burkina Faso’s authorities were tackling poaching and on the communities of people living in the park.
They were traveling at the time of the attack in a group with about 40 people, she said.
“It is a dangerous area where terrorists, bandits, jihadists usually operate,” said Ms Gonzalez Laya.
Ireland’s foreign ministry told the Associated Press it was “aware of the reports and is liaising closely with international partners regarding the situation on the ground”.
Two soldiers wounded in the attack and taken to a military hospital in the capital, Ouagadougou, said they were attacked by jihadists who outnumbered their 15-person patrol.
One soldier was shot in the leg and the other in his arm, causing it to be amputated. When the jihadists attacked, the soldiers tried to form a protective shield around the foreigners, but once the shooting stopped they realised they had disappeared, one said.
“We were discouraged. It’s like you leave your house with 10 people, you go to work and then you come back with eight people. What do you say to those two people’s families?” said one of the soldiers.
The foreigners had been travelling with the rangers for about a week, said the soldiers. The rangers were conducting their first mission in Arly National Park after finishing a six-month anti-poaching training programme, he said.
Burkina Faso has been attacked by jihadists linked to al Qaida and the so-called Islamic State group who have killed thousands and displaced more than a million people.
The east is one of the hardest-hit parts of the country, and while it is unclear which group operates where the attack occurred, conflict analysts say the area is known to be under jihadist control and that the groups carry out kidnappings as a way to fund their operations.