Kirk Woodman was a Canadian man who was working for an international mining company in the West African nation of Burkina Faso. On January 15, Woodman was kidnapped in the north of the country, where local authorities say that armed jihadi groups are becoming an increasing threat. The Canadian government says that there is a threat of terrorism in the region, where terrorist groups have said they plan to target Western companies.
Woodman’s family said they had high hopes that Canadian authorities would be able to bring him home safely. But on January 17, a security minister spokesman told Radio Canada that Woodman had been found dead.
Here’s what you need to know about Kirk Woodman:
1. A Dozen Gunmen Abducted Woodman Near the Border with Niger on Tuesday Night
A spokesperson for Burkina Faso’s security ministry said a dozen gunmen carried out a raid on a mine in the north of the country after nightfall on Tuesday, January 16. The spokesperson said Woodman was abducted during the raid in Tiabongou, in Yagha province. The government says that the region has come under increasing threat from jihadi groups.
Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said at the time that she was aware of “serious reports” about the abduction. Woodman’s family said Wednesday that they would not be speaking to the media but said they had full confidence that the Canadian authorities would be able to secure Woodman’s release. “We have faith and trust in Canadian authorities to bring our husband and father home safe. We are hopeful for a fast resolution to the situation,” the family told CTV News.
2. Reports Say Woodman’s Body Was Found Riddled With Bullets Near the Borders of Niger & Mali
A report from the Pan-African news site Jeune Afrique says that Woodman’s body was found riddled with bullets near Burkina Faso’s borders with Mali and Niger, near Petoye-Beiga, in Gorom Gorom. Jeune Afrique reports that all signs point to Woodman’s captors killing him and then fleeing.
Jeune Afrique quotes an unnamed security official from Burkina Faso’s government who says that Woodman’s abductors likely tried to force him to enter Mali; the official says that Woodman probably resisted, which led to them killing him. The official told Jeune Afrique that authorities are searching for the kidnappers, who may have headed towards Niger.
3. Woodman Was Vice President of Exploration for a Canadian Mining Company
Woodman prided himself on his years of experience helping companies mine for gold in western Africa. He wrote on his LinkedIn page, “I have worked continuously for more than 30 years since graduating with a BSc. (Geology) from Acadia University and have gained considerable experience in the mining exploration and development industry. I have spent a large part of the last 15 years exploring for gold in the Archean greenstone belts of West Africa.”
Woodman joined Progress Minerals, Inc, a Canadian mining company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2017. He worked as vice president of exploration. Progress Minerals has operations in Burkina Faso and in Ivory Coast.Prior to joining Progress Minerals, Woodman worked as a consultant providing geological and exploration support for mining and exploration companies.
4. Woodman’s Son, Matt, Is a Reporter & Anchor with Canada’s CTV News
Kirk Woodman’s son Matt is a journalist working with Canadian broadcaster CTV. Matt Woodman joined CTV Edmonton in November, 2016. He works as a reporter and late-night anchor for the station, where the station says he specializes in “sharing stories from the people in community where he grew up.” Woodman first joined CTV Atlantic in 2013 and by 2014 he was doing the weather reports on the weekend, while anchoring late-night newscasts.
Matt grew up in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia and earned a journalism degree from the University of King’s College. Matt describes himself as a serious hockey fan and outdoorsman, who loves camping, canoeing, and skiing.
5. Canada Has Been Warning Its Citizens to Avoid All Travel to the North of Burkina Faso
Even before Woodman’s abduction, the Canadian government had issued a travel warning urging its citizens to avoid travel to Burkina Faso. The government said that Canadians should avoid all “non-essential” travel to the country as a whole. But the government says Canadians should avoid absolutely all travel to the northern regions of the country, like the border with Niger and Mali. The travel warning reads, “the threat of kidnapping persists in Burkina Faso’s northern area, due to the proximity of Mali and Niger, where criminal and terrorist groups are active.”
The warning further adds, “There is a threat of terrorism. In 2018, terrorist groups have declared their intention to target Western companies in the Sahel.”