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 today (June 12).
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.
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.