Two Canadian women abducted in Ghana rescued, begin journey home

A police bus is stationed outside the Ashanti Regional Police Head Quarter in Kumasi on June 7, 2019. - The Canadians, charity volunteers aged 19 and 20, were taken on the evening of June 4, in Kumasi, Ghana's second city, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) northwest of the capital Accra, David Eklu, the assistant commissioner of police said in a statement. "Police Command is investigating a complaint of kidnapping at Ahodwo, Kumasi Royal Golf Club, at 8:25 pm on 4 June, 2019, where two women of Canadian nationality were kidnapped," Eklu said. Eklu told AFP the two kidnapped women 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 taken, he said. The third woman then went to alert the police with the Uber driver. (Photo by MAHMUD MOHAMMED-NURUDEEN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MAHMUD MOHAMMED-NURUDEEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Two young Canadian women who were kidnapped while volunteering in Ghana have begun their journey home after being rescued by authorities in the West African country on Wednesday.

Bailey Chitty and Lauren Tilley are safe and physically unharmed, said Youth Challenge International, the Toronto-based non-profit the women were volunteering with.

"Bailey and Lauren are receiving emotional and psychological support from professionals as they travel home," the group said in a statement.

"The parents of both young women have been in contact with their daughters and at this time wish to express their extreme gratitude to the Ghanaian police, the Ghanaian government and the Canadian government."

Ghana's information minister said national security forces led an operation to rescue the two women — aged 19 and 20 — from a location in the suburbs of Kumasi, Ghana's second-largest city.

Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah said five Ghanaians and three Nigerians are now in custody in connection with what he called a "traumatic incident," and more arrests are possible.

No ransom was discussed or paid in the case, and there's no indication yet of any affiliation between the kidnappers and any religious or political group, the minister said.

"We have no brief that says that this person, that person is associated with this church or that religion or this political party," he said, adding that the investigation is ongoing. "It's the interrogation that will determine who the masterminds are."

Oppong-Nkrumah said a Canadian "team" had been in Ghana to offer help in the rescue, but it was not necessary because Ghanaian forces had the situation under control.

"Our people on the ground had clarity on what to do, and the result is what you see currently," he said.

A spokesman for Global Affairs Canada said the federal government is "very relieved" that the women are safe.

"We would like to thank the Government of Ghana for their co-operation in the resolution of this case," Guillaume Berube said in an email, adding that consular officials were assisting the women and their families.

"Out of respect to these two Canadians who have been through harrowing experiences, no further information will be disclosed," he said.

The mayor of Amherst, N.S., said Chitty was from his community and studied in Fredericton along with Tilley.

"The heartfelt grief that two girls were kidnapped was very distressing, everyone was very upset," said David Kogon. "Equally, the pleasure at finding out they were rescued and apparently physically unharmed is great."

The University of New Brunswick said it was "incredibly pleased" to see a successful resolution to the case but did not offer further comment.

Ghana has long been considered one of the least dangerous countries in West Africa, but the abductions of the two Canadians marked the second time in a month that foreigners had been targeted in Kumasi. A previous rescue effort freed an Indian national.

The information minister maintained that Ghana remained safe for foreign travellers .

"The country's risk profile has not changed," he said.

— with files from Morgan Lowrie in Montreal and the Associated Press.

Adam Burns , The Canadian Press