Ghana security forces free two kidnapped Canadians

Accra (AFP) –


Two young Canadian women freed from their kidnap ordeal by Ghanaian security forces were unharmed, the government said Wednesday, after the development volunteers were snatched at a golf club in the city of Kumasi last week.

Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah said five Ghanaians and three Nigerians are being held in connection with the kidnapping, a relatively rare incident of violence targeting foreigners in a country seen as a bulwark of stability.

The women, aged 19 and 20, have been flown to the capital Accra.

"Preliminary investigations show they are fine and are receiving the necessary attention," Oppong Nkrumah told reporters, adding that the operation began overnight Tuesday and lasted less than half an hour.

The Canadians were named as Lauren Tilley and Bailey Chitty by Youth Challenge International, an international development organisation headquartered in Toronto.

"Bailey and Lauren are receiving emotional and psychological support from professionals as they travel home. Medical reports are that they are both physically unhurt," the organisation said in a statement.

The women were abducted on June 4 in Kumasi, Ghana's second largest city, located some 200 kilometres (125 miles) northwest of Accra.

They had been travelling in an Uber with a third Canadian woman.

When they reached their destination, the pair got out of the taxi first and were kidnapped. The third woman then went to alert the police with the Uber driver.

- Security concerns -

Oppong Nkrumah earlier sought to give security assurances.

"Citizens and travellers are once again assured that Ghana remains safe," he said.

Last year, three Ghanaian women were kidnapped in the southern port of Takoradi.

In April this year, an Indian man was reportedly abducted, also in Kumasi, by an armed gang demanding a cash ransom. He was swiftly rescued by police. The Estonian consul was also briefly abducted in April, but released soon after.

Local media quoted President Nana Akufo-Addo this year as warning that action must be taken to ensure that kidnapping "doesn't become a feature of our society".

"Our brothers and sisters in Nigeria have known it," Akufo-Addo said.

"But we have not known it in this country, and we need to do something about it, to make sure that it doesn't become a feature of our society."

Police on Tuesday briefly detained Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, the chairman of the largest opposition party, in connection with a spate of kidnappings.

He was later released but ordered to report back to the Criminal Investigations Department on Thursday, according to a post on the official police Twitter account.

- Tourist hub -

Ghana, a nation of some 30 million people, has long been seen as a bastion of stability in a region struggling to contain multiple groups of Islamist fighters.

Tourism accounts for around five percent of Ghana's GDP.

The country hosts more than 1.3 million visitors a year, pitching the image of a friendly destination with palm-fringed beaches.

Many visitors, especially from North America, also come to see grim reminders of the slave trade.

Kumasi, the historic capital of the Ashanti kingdom, is a favourite destination.

Britain's heir to the throne, Prince Charles, visited the Manhiyia royal place last November with his wife Camilla.