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Burkina Faso bishop says American nun freed by captors

Sr. Suellen Tennyson.jpg
Posted at 11:07 AM, Aug 31, 2022

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — An 83-year-old American nun kidnapped from her bed in Burkina Faso earlier this year has been released by her captors unharmed, Catholic church officials in the West African nation said Wednesday.

Sister Suellen Tennyson had been abducted by 10 gunmen without her blood pressure medication. The church statement about her release, though, said she was still in good health after nearly five months in captivity.

“For the moment we have no information on the conditions of her release but we express our profound gratitude to those who worked toward it," Kaya Bishop Theophile Nare said.

Gunmen kidnapped Tennyson from her home in Yalgo, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) northeast of Kaya, back in April. Two other nuns — one from Canada and one from Burkina Faso — and two young Burkinabe women who were living in the same house, were not taken.

The once peaceful West African nation has seen a great deal of violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group over the past six years. In Kaya, the mounting insecurity weighs heavily on people's minds.

Kouka Ouedraogo, a priest in Kaya who has worked with Tennyson, called her release “a great joy for all our parish.”

“We are still concerned about the security situation and kidnapping in the region,” he said. "We are even more concerned as the situation keeps on deteriorating in the zone with many displaced people fleeing into Kaya.”

Tennyson has been a missionary in Burkina Faso since 2014 and previously worked in the New Orleans archdiocese for many years.

Jihadi groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State in the Sahel, the vast expanse south of the Sahara Desert, have long taken foreign hostages for ransom to fund operations.

In May, suspected jihadists abducted an Italian missionary couple along with their child and Togolese domestic worker in southern Mali. French journalist Olivier Dubois was kidnapped in April 2021 from Gao in the volatile country's north.

American aid worker Jeffrey Woodke, who was kidnapped from Niger in 2016, is also among those who remain in captivity.


Associated Press writers Sam Mednick in Goma, Congo, and Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal, contributed to this report.